Another political murder, this time in Esmeraldas, marks Ecuador’s bloody election campaign
The unprecedented violence shaking Ecuador has claimed the life of another political leader, bringing the number of politics-related killings in the last four weeks to three, including that of a presidential candidate.
The fatal shooting of Pedro Briones a organiser for Citizen Revolution, the party of the former president Rafael Correa, was confirmed by Luisa González, the frontrunner in Sunday’s special presidential election and a member of the same party.
“Ecuador is experiencing its bloodiest era,” González tweeted. “A heartfelt hug to the family of colleague Pedro Briones, fallen by the hands of violence.”
The killing of Briones, who was a political leader in a rural area of San Mateo de Esmeraldas, came less than a week after the assassination in broad daylight of the presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio, an outspoken critic of organised crime and corruption.
That followed the 26 July fatal shooting of the city of Manta’s mayor. Agustín Intriago, 38, had recently been re-elected for a term that began in May.
Thousands of people have been killed in Ecuador over the past three years as the country has transformed into a major drug trafficking hub with cartel-aided local gangs battling for control of the streets, prisons and drug routes. Crime and violence have dominated the discussions around Sunday’s election.
Last Saturday, authorities moved the leader of one of the country’s most powerful gangs, Los Choneros, into a maximum-security prison. Villavicencio had accused the group and its leader, José Adolfo Macías, alias Fito, whom he linked to Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel, of threatening him and his campaign team days before the assassination.
The gang boss was moved out of a jail with lighter security into a maximum-security prison in the same large complex of detention facilities in the port city of Guayaquil. The transfer occurred after about 4,000 soldiers and police officers raided the jail where Macías was being held and seized weapons, ammunition and explosives.
In response, jail inmates on Monday protested and hung signs demanding Macías be transferred back.
“We want peace return Fito,” read one of the signs visible from the road outside the complex, which dozens of police officers and members of the armed forces guarded after supporters of Macías arrived on motorcycles to protest against his relocation.
Authorities have not disclosed a suspected motive for Villavicencio’s killing. On Friday an Ecuadorian judge ordered preventive detention for six Colombian men described by authorities as being suspected of involvement in the killing. The FBI is assisting in the investigation.
Authorities did not immediately release details of Briones’s killing on Monday.
The national police tallied 3,568 violent deaths in the first six months of this year, far more than the 2,042 reported during the same period in 2022. That year ended with 4,600 violent deaths, the country’s highest on record and double the total in 2021.
Credit: The Guardian