Fernando Villavicencio, a presidential candidate in Ecuador’s August election, was killed late Wednesday, moments after leaving a campaign rally in Quito. He was 59.
The fatal shooting was said to have taken place at about 6:20 p.m. local time, just 50 meters from the entrance of the rally venue in the Ecuadorian capital. Eyewitnesses said three shots were heard before Villavicencio was seen falling to the ground.
Local media reports have indicated that several individuals sustained injuries from the shooting; however, it’s unclear what the severity of the injuries range. The gunmen have reportedly not been detained.
Photos from the scene captured multiple rally attendees seeking shelter in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.
The assassination was initially confirmed by friend and campaign adviser Carlos Figueroa before Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso issued a statement on the incident.
“Outraged and shocked by the assassination of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio,” Lasso write on a social media post. “My solidarity and condolences to his wife and daughters. For his memory and for his fight, I assure you that this crime will not go unpunished.”
“Organized crime has come a long way, but the full weight of the law is going to fall on them,” he added.
The president noted that a security meeting was being called to assess the situation.
The Organization of American States issued a statement after news of the shooting broke, calling on all presidential candidates to “strengthen their security measures and call upon the authorities to provide the necessary support to guarantee the integrity of the participants in the electoral process.”
The security of the candidates is fundamental to maintaining confidence in the democratic system and ensuring that the voices of all citizens can be heard freely and without fear,” the statement added.
Villavicencio, once a member of Ecuador’s National Assembly, was one of eight presidential candidates registered to take part in the country’s August 20 election. Not considered a top contender, he was polling at 7.5% among voters.
A recent poll found that the leading contender in the election was Luisa Gonzalez, who clinched the backing of former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa. Gonzalez is holding 29.3% of the voters.