Now, just days ahead of Ecuador’s general elections, a state of emergency has been declared by outgoing president Guillermo Lasso, deploying military personnel across the country and suspending constitutional rights by decree.
Rather than protecting the democratic process in the run-up to the 20 August election, the response to Villavicencio’s assassination threatens to undermine it.
Reactionary forces — both inside Ecuador and abroad — are now weaponizing this heinous attack to criminalize the Citizens Revolution, its leading presidential candidate Luisa González, and her ally in former president Rafael Correa.
Prior to the shooting, Villavicencio had publicly said he received multiple death threats, including from a leader of Los Choneros, affiliated to Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel, one of a slate of organized crime groups that now operate in Ecuador.
Further details point toward potential state involvement. Villavicencio was granted the highest level of security detail, but certain protocols were violated at the time of the incident. One of the suspected gunmen reportedly died in police custody following an exchange of fire with security personnel — but the circumstances of his death are yet to be clarified.
For the last six years, Ecuador has been consumed by violence, with a disastrous increase in organised crime and narco-trafficking following the drastic reduction of crime that accompanied President Correa’s tenure — a historic low of 5.8 homicides per 100,000 in 2017. The succeeding governments of Lenin Moreno and Guillermo Lasso, in contrast, have left Ecuador the fourth-most dangerous country in the region, with a homicide rate of 25.5 per 100,000 in 2022.
Despite these facts, Villavicencio’s death has now been deployed as an excuse to attack his rival party — and intimidate progressive forces in Ecuador.
The brutal and shocking killing of Villavicencio requires an immediate and exhaustive investigation so that his perpetrators are brought to justice. From the Observatory, the Progressive International condemns the weaponization of this shocking act of political violence — and calls on democratic forces everywhere to defend Ecuadorians’ right to free, fair, and transparent elections on 20 August.