Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso announced Thursday that a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) team will assist in the investigation into the murder of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio. The mission of the U.S. agents will be to aid the Ecuadorian authorities in determining the motive for the crime and identifying the perpetrators. The gunman who fired the shots that killed Villavicencio died at the scene of the attack, which occurred after a campaign rally in northern Quito. The Prosecutor’s Office reported Thursday that six suspects, all Colombian nationals, had been arrested in connection with the assassination.
Villavicencio was shot dead seconds after getting into a vehicle supplied by the state to move around Quito. The assassin fired into the window opposite the door through which the candidate had entered. The vehicle was not armored and Villavicencio was not wearing a bulletproof vest, despite reporting threats from local criminal groups that he accused of having links to the Mexican Sinaloa Cartel. Interior Minister Juan Zapata and Police Commander Fausto Salinas have been unable to clarify the failings of Villavicencio security set-up, but stated that he was under armed police escort. Neither did they speculate about the motive for the attack.
At a press conference in Quito, the officials did not take questions and limited themselves to discussing the six Colombians arrested as suspects, all of whom have criminal records, it was confirmed. They had been arrested a month ago but the judge did not remand them in custody, instead ordering them to report the court periodically, which they failed to do.
“In several raids in the sector of Conocoto and the south of the city, we managed to apprehend six subjects: Andres M., Jose N., Adey G., Camilo R., Jules C., Jhon R., all foreigners,” said the Minister of Interior. The police found a rifle with two magazines, a submachine gun, four pistols, three grenades, four boxes of ammunition, two motorcycles and a vehicle that had been reported stolen.
Villavicencio, a proponent of an iron fist to tackle the problem of organized crime in Ecuador, had received threatening messages the leader of the Los Choneros criminal gang, a local group allegedly working for the Sinaloa Cartel, which is locked in a struggle with the Jalisco New Generation Cartel for control of drug production and trafficking operations in the country.
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