Ecuadorian candidate canceled interview a week before assassination

Ecuadorian presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio canceled in-person interview with Colombian television news network after receiving threat a week before he was assassinated

  • Fernando Villavicencio opted for a virtual interview instead of an in-person sit down with Colombian cable television news network NTN24
  • The Ecuadorian presidential candidate did the interview August 1 and told the network he received death threats from the Sinaloa cartel
  • The 59-year-old was shot dead Wednesday in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, after leaving a campaign event 

Ecuadorian presidential candidate, Fernando Villavicencio, was forced to cancel an in-person interview with a Colombian cable television news network a week before he was assassinated.

Villavicencio, 59, had been scheduled to meet with NTN24 program director Ruth Del Salto on August 1 in Guayaquil, Ecuador, the network revealed Wednesday, just hours after he was gunned down after leaving a campaign event at a school in the capital, Quito.

Nine people, including a candidate for the National assembly and two police officers, were wounded, Ecuador’s Attorney General’s Office said in a statement.

At least seven people were arrested, including one gunman who was shot by cops and then died in an ambulance that was rushing him to a local medical facility.

NTN24 said Villavicencio opted to hold a virtual interview with Del Salto.

Ecuadorian presidential candidate was assassinated moments after walking out of a campaign event at a school gym in Quito, Ecuador, on Wednesday

Villavicencio appeared on a virtual interview with Colombian television news network NTN24 on August 1 after he was advised to cancel the in-person sit down with Ruth Del Salto, the channel’s program director 

The right-wing politician and former journalist said that the threats came down from the Sinaloa Cartel, the notorious Mexican criminal organization founded by the jailed drug lord Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán, and one of its main associates in Ecuador, José ‘Fito’ Macías, the jailed boss of Los Choneros gang.

Villavicencio, a married father of five, said the menaces were the byproduct of a campaign pledge to tear down criminal organizations who were linked to political figures.

‘What these threats that come from the Sinaloa Cartel do is demonstrate is that our government program is a program that precisely aims to break and dismantle these criminal drug trafficking structures in collusion with political actors, and this is perhaps the most important thing,’ he said.

As one of the eight candidates running for president, Villavicencio stressed that Ecuador could no longer fear criminal organizations.

‘They pretend to have a country on its knees as they already did in Colombia, as they did and are doing in Mexico,’ he said. ‘A brave president has to arm himself with the courage of his people and tell the criminals, these gangs of hitmen, drug traffickers and members of criminal structures that they are not going to win.’

Villavicencio said last week that he and his team had been threatened by a drug trafficking gang. He is pictured at the rally on Wednesday

One woman appeared to be seriously injured in the shooting, and was carried back inside

Villavicencio, a candidate of the Build Ecuador Movement, added that results of the August 20 elections – which will take place on its scheduled date, according to a government statement Thursday – would show that ‘either the homeland triumphs or the mafias triumph.’

‘Here I am showing my face. I’m not scared of them,’ he said in a statement before his death, naming Macías by his alias ‘Fito.’

Villavicencio was a former member of Ecuador’s National Assembly before it was dissolved in May and was polling at 7.5 percent.

His campaign advisor, Patricio Zuquilanda, told The Associated Press that he had received at least three death threats prior to the attack and that reports were filed with authorities. One arrest was made.

José ‘El Fito’ Macías is one of the leaders of the Ecuador-based gang Los Choneros, a gang linked to the Sinaloa Cartel

Ecuador’s president on Wednesday evening tweeted a photo of their emergency meeting

People are seen taking cover as gunshots were fired following a political rally in Quito on Wednesday

The father of five was known as a thorn in the side of corrupt companies and politicians

Zuquilanda issued a plea to international authorities, calling on them to take a stand against the wave of violence and drug trafficking in the South American nation.

‘The Ecuadorian people are crying and Ecuador is mortally wounded,’ he said. ‘Politics cannot lead to the death of any member of society.’

Villavicencio was one of the most critical voices against corruption, especially during the government of former president Rafael Correa from 2007 to 2017, and was sentenced to 18 months in prison for defamation over statements made against the former president.

He fled to Indigenous territory within Ecuador and later was given asylum in Peru.

As a legislator, Villavicencio was criticized by opposition politicians for obstructing an impeachment process this year against President Guillermo Lasso, which led the latter to call the early elections.

Lasso, who was at risk of being impeached when he dissolved the National Assembly and called the elections, said at the end of May that he would not run for re-election.

The legislature had been considering Lasso’s impeachment over allegations he had ignored warnings of embezzlement relating to a contract with state-owned oil transportation company Flota Petrolera Ecuatoriana (FLOPEC).  

Lasso, who was at the premier of the film Sound of Freedom when he learnt of Villavicencio’s killing and was hurried out, said the murder will not go unpunished.

‘For his memory and his fight, I assure you that this crime will not remain unpunished,’ tweeted Lasso. 

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