Press Release Ecuador Latin America and the Caribbean World

Family of Ecuadorian Presidential Candidate Calls His Assassination a “State Crime”

August 14, 2023

Contact: Dan Beeton, 202-293-5380 x104Mail_Outline

Evidence raises serious questions of possible government and police involvement, says CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot

April letter from members of US Congress to President Biden also called attention to President Lasso’s close connections with organized crime

Washington, DC — Family members of Ecuadorian presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio have raised suspicions of state involvement in Villavicencio’s assassination on Wednesday as he left a campaign rally. Others familiar with some of the details of the crime have also suggested there could be state involvement.

Villavicencio’s widow described the assassination as “a state crime.” Her late husband was under the protection of the state. Villavicencio’s sister has also blamed the Lasso government for her brother’s death. 

In April, members of the US Congress, in a letter to President Biden, referred to  “documentary evidence that an anti-narcotics investigation had been shut down as a result of government pressure because it would have exposed the business dealings of a close associate of [Danilo] Carrera … with a well-known drug trafficking organization.” Danilo Carrera is President Lasso’s brother-in-law and most important business partner.

“Villavicencio built his campaign on an anti-corruption, anti-narco platform, and it seems he was targeted by those criminal organizations operating in Ecuador and with the complicity of the state,” said Amanda Mattingly, head of ACM Global Intelligence, an international risk consulting firm.

“All of these connections between organized crime figures and government officials, up to the highest levels, give credence to the allegations that Villavicencio’s murder may have been a state crime,” said Mark Weisbrot, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Multiple videos show Fernando Villavicencio being escorted by police personnel to a vehicle that did not comply with the most basic security standards. The car was not an armored or bulletproof vehicle. The police confirmed this fact the following day in a press conference, admitting that Villavicencio’s armored car was in Guayaquil where he had been in the morning and that the car arrived five minutes after the deadly attack. 

The video material also shows that there was no security on the far side of the car, the flank from where the shots were fired. None of the police officers got in the car with Villavicencio.

Furthermore, Fernando Villavicencio’s security detail arranged for him to leave through the main door of the building that had hosted the event, rather than through the parking lot where several other participants exited, including National Assembly candidate Patricio Carrillo, a retired police officer.

“All these facts are highly irregular for security measures designed to protect a candidate who had already received several threats, had the largest and most elaborate security detail of all the candidates, and clearly was at high risk of being attacked,” Weisbrot said.  

Villavicencio had also publicly dared the “narcos” to “come and get me.” He also claimed he had received threats from Adolfo Macías (alias “Fito”), leader of the Choneros gang, who is currently incarcerated. Fito, in response to recent prison violence, recorded and posted a video on July 25 from the Regional del Guayas jail surrounded by five other men — one of whom has since been confirmed by the government to be a police officer.

Villavicencio was also outspoken about police links with organized crime. “The police know where the hideouts of criminals and drug traffickers are,” he said, before declaring that one of his first acts as president would be to purge the police.

He also claimed that the police officers in charge of the “León de Troya” case were being threatened by “narcos.” The “León de Troya” case investigates links between Lasso’s brother-in-law and close business associate Danilo Carrera and his frontman Rubén Cherres with drug-trafficking organizations. Cherres, a key witness who was wanted by the police, was found murdered on March 31.

On August 9, one of Villavicencio’s attackers was injured, detained, and taken to a police detention center instead of to a hospital to save his life and preserve his testimony. The assailant died in police custody in circumstances that have not been clarified.

Some investors and analysts say the assassination is likely to boost the odds of a right-wing candidate such as Otto Sonnenholzner or Jan Topic becoming president, while harming the prospects of current frontrunner Luisa Gonzalez, who represents the political movement of former president Rafael Correa.


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