Anti-crime, anti-China presidential candidate in Ecuador ASSASSINATED
By Ramon Tomey // Aug 14, 2023

A presidential candidate in Ecuador who ran on an anti-China and anti-crime platform was assassinated by gunmen during a campaign event.

Ecuadorian journalist-turned-politician Fernando Villavicencio was gunned down on the night of Aug. 9 in the country's capital Quito. He had been walking out of an event when unknown assailants fired several shots, with the candidate receiving three rounds that took his life. According to an Aug. 10 report by the Ecuadorian paper El Comercio, at least nine others were injured and one of the attackers were killed after an exchange of gunfire with Villavicencio's security detail.

The politician was among eight presidential candidates vying for the seat of chief executive in the South American nation's Aug. 20 elections. It followed current Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso dissolving the National Assembly – the country's unicameral legislature – and calling for general elections. According to Lasso, who isn't running for reelection, incessant attempts to impeach him made the regular business of government impossible.

Following Villavicencio's assassination, Lasso announced a 60-day state of emergency in the country to restore order. He had been scheduled to attend a screening of the movie "Sound of Freedom" at a theater three minutes away from the crime scene but subsequently canceled his appearance.

"For his memory and his struggle, I assure that this crime will not remain with impunity," the incumbent president said. "Organized crime has made it very far, but the full weight of the law will fall on them."

Ecuadorian law enforcement later said on Aug. 10 that six individuals were arrested in relation to the killing. The six reportedly hailed from Colombia and were part of organized crime groups. Ecuador's police added that the government is pursuing the "intellectual authors" of the murder.

Villavicencio challenging crime, corruption and China

Villavicencio's campaign centered on fighting organized crime, eliminating political corruption and curbing China's influence on Ecuador. Prior to his untimely death, he accused a "capo" – a high-ranking member of the Mexican Sinaloa Cartel – named Fito of threatening to kill him. Villavicencio promised to build a giant high-security prison for the upper ranks of Ecuador's most prolific drug trafficking and other criminal gangs during his initial days in office if elected.

Before entering politics, Villavicencio had worked as a journalist. He exposed the corruption of former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, a socialist, and accused him of engaging in shady oil deals with Beijing that were detrimental to the Ecuadorian economy. In retaliation, Correa sentenced Villavicencio to 18 months in prison for insulting him in 2014 – which the journalist avoided by living with an indigenous tribe.

Three years later in 2017, Villavicencio was sentenced to house arrest and forced to wear an anklet. He derisively dubbed the device as the "Chinese shackle" in reference to Beijing's investments in Correa's repressive government.

The former Ecuadorian president is currently in exile in Belgium due to criminal charges against him. Nevertheless, this hasn't dissuaded him from threatening Villavicencio. His last threat issued on social media in November 2022 dubbed the assassinated candidate as a "shameless coward" and warned that his "party will be over soon."

Villavicencio had been condemning China's encroaching influence in the country, lamenting in October 2022 that "Ecuador has been a Chinese colony since 2007." He expressed opposition to any free-trade agreement with Beijing and called for investigations into multiple deals inked by Correa and companies linked to the Chinese Communist Party. (Related: Generals warn of aggressive Chinese military expansion into Latin America.)

The socialist president wasn't the only target of Villavicencio's ire. Even Lasso himself, an establishment conservative, has been denounced by the late politician for not doing enough to hold back Beijing's influence on Ecuador.

Meanwhile, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement on Aug. 10 denouncing Villavicencio's murder.

"China condemns the attack and extends our condolences for the unfortunate assassination of Villavicencio," the statement said. "We hope the Ecuadorian government and relevant parties will work to maintain stability and that the upcoming election will be safe, steady and smooth."

Watch this footage of Fernando Villavicencio's assassination on Aug. 9.

This video is from the Cynthia's Pursuit of Truth channel on

More related stories:

Food and fuel shortages, price spikes continue to get worse in protest-hit Ecuador.

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Assassination of top Putin adviser's daughter by suspected Ukrainian operatives puts Europe on hair-trigger for World War III.

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