Murdered Puerto López candidate wins election

Feb 8, 2023 | 17 comments

The murdered candidate for mayor of Puerto López, Omar Menéndez, easily won election Sunday. Menéndez, 41, was shot dead by gunmen who burst into the room where he was meeting with campaign workers on Saturday.

A teenager who worked with the campaign was also killed in the attack while three others were injured.

Omar Menéndez

A spokesman for Menéndez’s party, Citizen’s Revolution, said a replacement will be named to serve as mayor.

The elections were held during an escalating crime wave in Ecuador’s coastal region linked to the growing influence of violent drug gangs. Menéndez was not the only politician to be killed in the run-up to the election. Two weeks earlier, the candidate for mayor of  Salinas, Julio César Farachio, was also murdered. Salinas is about 70 kilometers south of Puerto López.

In addition, political candidates in other coastal communities, including Manta and Esmerladas, have been targeted by hitmen, two of them injured in shootings.

Police have arrested a suspect in Farachio’s murder but say the other assailants remain at large.

President Guillermo Lasso condemned the murders, saying that drug gang violence is Ecuador’s “number one problem.” Since 2021, murder rates in the country’s four coastal provinces have risen by as much as 300%.

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