Omar Menéndez, a candidate for mayor of Puerto López, died from bullet wounds Saturday night, the apparent victim of a political assassination. Representing the Revolución Ciudadana movement, Menéndez was considered one of the favorites in his race.
An unidentified 16-year-old also died in the 8 p.m.attack at Menéndez campaign headquarters in the Manabí Province fishing town, while two others were injured.
According to Police Commander Carlos Paredes, two armed attackers arrived and left by motorcycle. “All resources are focused on capturing the assassins and we will not rest until they are in jail,” he said. “We are following a series of leads in the case, including threatening phone calls received by the victim in recent days and pamphlets distributed in Puerto López accusing Menéndez of association with a drug trafficking gang.”
Paredes refused to respond to questions regarding whether Menéndez’s name was on a list of candidates turned over to the Attorney General’s office last week that were suspected of having ties to criminal organizations. “Our concern tonight is for the two victims who are recovering in the hospital and for the family of Omar Menéndez and the other victim,” Paredes said.
President Guillermo Lasso sent condolences to Menéndez’s family and supporters and to the family of the second victim. “Regardless of the circumstances, I will always be on the side of defending life,” he said. “This tragedy underscores the importance of our mission to ride the country of criminal mafias.”
Menéndez is one of several political candidates in coastal communities who have been attacked before and during the election campaign. A supporter of Puerto López incumbent mayor, Javier Pincay, continues to recuperate in a local hospital from a December shooting in which Pincay was the target. On January 21, 2023, Julio César Farachio, a mayoral candidate in Salinas, Santa Elena Province, was murdered. In August, Gerardo Delgado, who had announced his intention to run for mayor of Manta, was also killed by hitmen.
According to Manta radio commentator and former National Assemblyman Fausto Rivera, all the shootings are carried out by criminal gang members and are related to the illegal drug trade.
A spokeswoman for Revolución Ciudadana said another candidate would be named Sunday to replace Menéndez.