By Alexandra Valencia
QUITO (Reuters) – The assassination of Ecuadorian presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio has sparked a wave of speculation from politicians across the spectrum, including from allies who were with him in the moments before he died, about why he was killed and why he was not was murdered. better protected.
Villavicencio, who was gunned down in Quito last week, made a name for himself as an investigative journalist who stamped out corruption before becoming a lawmaker. Threats were no stranger to him.
Police have arrested six suspects who they say are all Colombians belonging to criminal groups; another was killed in the shoot-out.
But there are still no clear answers about the motive for his murder, who was really behind it, or why his security failed. In that vacuum, speculation is rife.
Police said last week their investigation includes questions about why an armored vehicle normally used by the candidate was in Guayaquil and not near Villavicencio on the day of the murder.
Police have said Villavicencio, who was shot in the head as he got into the backseat of a car after a campaign event at a sports center, had three rings of security.
Three police officers were among the nine injured in the shooting. Police also safely detonated an explosive device at the site.
“He should have had a much stronger (security) structure,” Patricio Carrillo, a former interior minister and legislative candidate who was with Villavicencio at the event where he was killed, told Reuters.
“People loved him and every time there was more emotion and no way to keep people from hugging him,” said Carrillo. “That day there were a lot of people around his immediate security and wanted to take pictures, to be next to him.”
After the event, Villavicencio left the front of the sports center, where many people had gathered, Carrillo said, adding that he himself had stayed inside to chat with some friends. Carrillo and his friends were evacuated through the back door by two security guards when they heard the shooting.
“We thought we were covered, but that coverage wasn’t enough,” Carrillo said. “For that, the police have to respond… They talk about the three security rings, but they don’t talk about negligence.”
In response to a request from Reuters, police have issued a statement posted online saying they are conducting an internal investigation and are cooperating with the attorney general’s office to find those responsible for the murder.
“The most important thing is to find the person who funded this murder, the intellectual author, the psychopath who does not want Ecuador to solve its corruption and impunity problems,” Carrillo said, echoing calls from Villavicencio’s widow last week.
Christian Zurita, Villavicencio’s replacement candidate for the Construye party, was also present at the sports center on the day of the murder. He told journalists on Thursday that he believed, without providing evidence, that Villavicencio was killed because he wanted to militarize the country’s ports, key starting points for drugs smuggled abroad.
The assassination has cast a shadow over Sunday’s election to elect a replacement for conservative President Guillermo Lasso. The leader is Luisa Gonzalez, a protégé of former president Rafael Correa.
Correa, who regularly clashed with Villavicencio during his tenure, called the assassination a false flag operation to hurt his Citizen’s Revolution party.
“I have no doubt that this is a plot, a conspiracy to harm the civil revolution,” said Correa, who appeared virtually at a campaign rally for Gonzalez on Wednesday.
Without providing any evidence, he accused the police of complicity, said that Villavicencio’s armored car was parked at the back entrance of the sports center and that the car Villavicencio got into had no driver, and that Villavicencio’s mobile phone had disappeared.
“It is clear that this benefits the fascist right, those who want the current situation to continue, those who do not want the civil revolution to return,” he said.
(Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)