Friday, August 18, 2023

Ecuador Reels From Another Political Slaying, Days Before Presidential Election

"Ecuador is living its bloodiest moment," Ecuadorian presidential frontrunner Luisa Gonzalez said after a member of her Movimiento Revolucion Ciudadana party was assassinated on Aug. 14, 2023.RODRIGO BUENDIA/AFP via Getty Images 

A local organizer for the political movement of former Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa was assassinated on Monday, less than a week after a prominent candidate was slain in broad daylight – and days before the presidential election.

The murder of Pedro Briones in the northern province of Esmeraldas was confirmed by Luisa González, the frontrunner in Sunday's special presidential election.

"Ecuador is living its bloodiest moment. We owe this to the total abandonment of an inept government and a state taken over by mafias," González, of the Revolución Ciudadana party, said on social media. 

"A heartfelt hug to the family of colleague Pedro Briones, fallen by the hands of violence."

The hit on Briones, a political leader in a rural area of San Mateo de Esmeraldas, came less than a week after Ecuador was stunned by the daylight assassination of anti-corruption presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio. Police have arrested six Colombians in Villavicencio’s murder.

The slayings of Villavicencio and Briones followed the July 26 fatal shooting of the mayor of Manta, Ecuador's third largest city.

Thousands have died over the last three years as Ecuador became a major drug trafficking hub and cartel-aided local gangs battle for control of the streets, prisons and drug routes. 

Crime and violence have dominated the debate around Sunday's election.

González told the Associated Press she had revamped her security detail following Villavicencio's murder, but she refused to wear a bulletproof vest. 

"I have faith in God; he is the one who takes care of us," she said.

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