Ecuador’s Lasso declares state of emergency after killing of presidential candidate

Ecuadoran President Guillermo Lasso declared a two-month state of emergency on Thursday following the assassination of a presidential candidate, but vowed to hold general elections scheduled for later this month.

“The Armed Forces as of this moment are mobilized throughout the national territory to guarantee the security of citizens, the tranquility of the country and the free and democratic elections of August 20,” Lasso said in an address broadcast on YouTube.

The president also declared three days of national mourning “to honor the memory of a patriot, of Fernando Villavicencio Valencia.”

Villavicencio, 59, was shot dead on Wednesday evening as he was leaving a rally in the capital Quito.

The centrist politician and anti-corruption crusader, who had complained of receiving threats against himself and his team, was the second most popular candidate in the country’s August 20 presidential race, according to recent opinion polls.

Nine other people were injured in the attack, including a candidate running for the national legislature and two policemen, prosecutors said.

One of the alleged attackers was shot and killed by security personnel.

Prosecutors also said six other suspects were arrested in raids carried out in southern Quito and in a neighboring town.

“This is a political crime that acquires a terrorist character and we do not doubt that this murder is an attempt to sabotage the electoral process,” Lasso said.

President of the National Electoral Council Diana Atamaint added that “the date of the elections scheduled for August 20 remain unalterable.”

In recent years, Ecuador has been hit by a wave of violence linked to drug trafficking.

At the end of July, Lasso declared a state of emergency in the town of Duran and the coastal provinces of Los Rios and Manabi, following a prison massacre and the murder of a mayor.

Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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