(QUITO, Ecuador) — One suspect in Villavicencio’s assassination is dead and six other suspects, said to be Colombian nationals, have been arrested, according to a press conference from Interior Minister Jose Serrano. The six suspects currently in custody are reported to have ties to organized crime, as the local government continues to search for the mastermind behind the attacks, the Interior Minister said.
The six detainees in custody have been identified as Andres M., Jose N., Eddy G., Camilo R., Jules C., and Jhon Rodriguez. During the raids, a rifle, a submachine gun, four pistols, three grenades, four boxes of ammunition, two motorbikes and a vehicle reported stolen were found, according to the Interior Minister.
President Guillermo Lasso has requested an FBI team to assist with the investigation regarding Villavicencio’s assassination. An FBI delegation is expected to arrive in Quito, according to President Lasso’s office.
In response to the shocking assassination, the Armed Forces have deployed their troops throughout the national territory, so that presence of the Armed Forces is in every city and town, the Interior Minister said.
The Armed Forces will remain in the area until the electoral process is done. Insisting that the local citizens and their safety are of top priority, the Armed Forces will provide the necessary security for the holding of the elections, according to the Interior Minister, adding that “the vote of the Ecuadorean people will be the best answer to the mafias and their allies.”
Villavicencio received threats from Los Choneros gang last month, and both the Los Choneros and Los Lobos gangs are claiming responsibility for the assassination, according to Villavicenio’s former campaign manager. Both gangs are said to be known rivals and responsible for multiple riots in the country’s prisons.
White House spokesperson John Kirby spoke briefly about Villavicencio’s assassination. “Well, very shocking and obviously it is heartbreaking for him and his family and his supporters. And I’m sure that all of Ecuador is grieving right now. I saw President Lasso declared a state of emergency for a couple months. So, it looks like they are taking this very, very seriously,” Kirby said during an interview with CNN.
“We obviously hope that there will be a full, complete and transparent investigation into this and that the perpetrators are held properly accountable. It is just a horrific scene, disturbing video, and obviously not what anybody would want for the people of Ecuador or quite frankly, Ecuador’s democracy,” he added.
Fernando Villavicencio, a presidential candidate in Ecuador, whose campaign highlighted alleged connections between gangs and government officials, was assassinated at the end of a campaign rally in Quito on Wednesday.
He was 59 years old and was one of nine candidates running for office.
Villavicencio, who was formerly an anti-corruption journalist, was shot while leaving a school after giving an address to young supporters, officials said.
Ten people were shot, including a suspected attacker and two police officers, according to interior ministry.
A suspected attacker died of his wounds, Interior Ministry officials told ABC News. Six people were arrested so far Quito’s Conocoto and San Bartolo, police said..
Wednesday’s assault marked the first assassination of a presidential candidate in the history of Ecuador. The Mayor of Manta was killed last month in the streets in a killing that officials said was connection with organized crime, officials said.
President Guillermo Lasso said that the presidential elections scheduled for August 20 will not be suspended.
Lasso said in a statement that “this crime will not be unpunished.” He added that “crime organizations went too far and will feel the weight of the law.”
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.
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