The presidential election in Ecuador, scheduled for August 20, has been rocked by the murder of one of the candidates, Fernando Villavicencio, who was shot dead last week in Quito. Villavicencio, a former lawmaker and journalist known for exposing corruption, was the leader of the centrist Construye party. He had been polling around the middle of the pack in a field of eight candidates.
His running mate, Andrea Gonzalez, a 36-year-old environmental activist, has been named to replace him as the party’s presidential candidate. Gonzalez, who has no prior political experience, was chosen by Villavicencio himself before his death. She will face off against seven other contenders, including former president Rafael Correa and former vice president Maria Alejandra Vicuña.
The assassination of Villavicencio has raised concerns about the security situation in Ecuador, which has seen a surge in violence and crime in recent years. Six suspects, all Colombian nationals allegedly linked to criminal groups, have been arrested and charged with the murder. The authorities have also transferred the leader of a powerful gang, who had threatened Villavicencio before his killing, to a maximum-security prison.
Villavicencio’s widow, Veronica Sarauz, has blamed the state for failing to protect her husband and has criticized Gonzalez’s nomination as “arbitrary”. She has demanded more answers from the government and the police about the circumstances of the attack and the motives behind it.