U.S. ambassador explains $5 million assassination reward, says drug violence is ‘transnational’
U.S. ambassador to Ecuador Michael Fitzpatrick explained on Friday the decision to offer a $5 million reward to find the masterminds of the assassination of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio. “We have been very successful in our rewards program to bring criminals to justice,” Fitzpatrick said in Quito. “In recent years, we have seen more than 100 cases solved worldwide as a result of the program.”
He added that because the international illegal drug trade is “all about money,” those involved in it are often willing to come forward. “Since we announced the award, we are already receiving phone calls, emails and social media messages with information,” he said.
Fitzpatrick said the attack on Villavicencio was an “offense against democracy and the rule of law,” and the U.S. is actively collaborating in efforts to find the intellectual authors of the crime. “When there is an attack against a presidential candidate in the middle of an election campaign, it goes against everything we support and are trying to create in the Americas,” he said.
In an interview with television channel Ecuavisa, Fitzpatrick said the U.S. is also alarmed by other murders and attacks on political figures in Ecuador. “Besides Villavicencio, we have also witnessed the assassination of Manta Mayor Agustín Intriago and others in Duran, Puerto Lopez and Esmeraldas in recent months.”
Fitzpatrick said much of the violence is not “homegrown” but transnational. “Villavicencio’s murder was by a Colombian hitman and Intriago’s was by a Venezuelan,” he said. “Our intention is to attack those high up in the crime and drug organizations who hire the hitmen to do the killings no matter where they live. In most cases, there are several intermediaries between the people who order the murders and those who commit them. We want to locate those at the top.”
Villavicencio’s family issued a statement Friday thanking the U.S. for offering the award, saying they believed it would “increase the pace” of the investigation.