Six arrested over presidential candidate’s assassination

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According to the Interior Ministry, police in Ecuador have arrested six men in connection with the assassination of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio. The lawmaker was shot in broad daylight earlier this week at a campaign gathering, just days before the next election.

At a press conference on Thursday, Interior Minister Jose Serrano confirmed the arrests, stressing that officials are still looking for the mastermind behind the assassination. Andres M., Jose N., Eddy G., Camilo R., Jules C., and Jhon Rodriguez were identified as the six suspects, all Colombian nationals with ties to organized crime groups.

According to a police report obtained by the Associated Press, the guys were captured during a raid on a Quito house. Serrano stated that a substantial cache of weaponry was discovered at the hideout, including three hand grenades, a submachine gun, multiple handguns, and a rifle.

Villavicencio, an anti-corruption campaigner and former congressman, was killed in a shower of gunfire while leaving a campaign event in the Ecuadorian capital on Wednesday, with witnesses reporting dozens of shots fired. According to Ecuador’s attorney general’s office, one of the assailants, who has not been identified, was killed in a confrontation with police later that day.

On Thursday, officials provided more details about the assassination, with President Guillermo Lasso alleging that one of the gunmen threw a grenade at police before fleeing the scene. The gadget, however, did not detonate, and officers eventually detonated it in a controlled environment. Investigators also discovered a pistol in the vicinity.

The government has responded to the assassination with increased security and a state of emergency, stationing police and military across the country until the next presidential election, which is scheduled to begin on August 20. The election will take place as planned, according to the director of Ecuador’s election committee, Diana Atamaint, who says the date is “unalterable.”

“The vote of the Ecuadorian people will be the best answer to the mafias and their allies,” said the interior minister.

According to President Lasso’s office, Quito has requested assistance from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, and an FBI group will arrive in Ecuador in the following days. The White House called Villavicencio’s death “very shocking,” and National Security Council spokesman John Kirby demanded a “full, complete, and transparent investigation.”

During Wednesday’s incident, nine people were injured, including two police officers and another political candidate. The assassination of a presidential candidate was the first in Ecuador’s history, forcing several other contenders to cease their campaigns.