Villavincencio’s assassination overshadows presidential debate that ‘offered little substance’

Aug 14, 2023 | 0 comments

In a presidential debate most notable for the absence of Fernando Villavincencio, seven candidates described how they would confront Ecuador’s crime wave and restore a flagging economy Sunday night. Following Wednesday’s assassination of Villavincencio in Quito, the topic of crime was on everyone’s mind.

The assassination of Fernando Villavincencio overshadowed Sunday night’s presidential debate.

According to several analysts, the debate produced no major surprises. “There were no winners and I doubt if many votes were changed,” said newspaper columnist Jorge Jiménez. “There was the expected pro- and anti-Correa jousting between Luisa González [Citizen Revolution] and most of the other candidates. The issue overhanging the entire evening, of course, was the death of Villavincencio.” The fact was emphasized when four of the candidates arrived at the Ecuador TV studios wearing bullet-proof vests. Only Daniel Noboa [National Democratic Action], however, wore one during the debate.

According to former National Assemblywoman Thalía Flores, none of the candidates had “concrete” plans to fight crime. “Everyone is for more police and some want to use the army, but there is no strategy that goes to the heart of the problem, drug exportation, the mafias and government corruption.”

She added: “This is where Villavincencio was missed. He was the only candidate with specific plans, some of them drastic, to attack criminality.”

In an exchange between Jan Topic [Country Without Fear] González questioned if Ecuador needed a “sniper” to combat crime. Topic, who owns a security company and served as a mercenary soldier in Africa, defended his “hard hand” law enforcement proposals.

González ignored a question from Otto Sonnenholzner about former president Rafael Correa’s “persecution” of Villavicencio, a reference to the Correa’s government attempt to arrest Villavicencio for his reporting on an assault on a police hospital in 2010.

In return, González accused Sonnenholzner of “taking three billion dollars” from the state budget while he was vice president in the Lenin Moreno government). Sonnenholzner called the claim “nonsense.”

Considering the entire evening, Jiménez said the “most competent” remarks came from Yaku Perez regarding the environment. “He thoroughly understands the issues, whether you agree with him or not.”

Like Jiménez, Flores believes the debate will have little effect on the election. “In light of the assassination, people watched thinking they might see new proposals,” she said. “Most of them were disappointed.”

In addition of crime and security, debate topics included the economy, social policy, education, health care, social welfare and the future of democracy.

According to Jiménez, the event that might change votes is Villavincencio’s death. “People are looking for a stronger government response to what happened but they didn’t hear it from the candidates tonight. Honestly, there was not much substance in this debate.”

In an about-face, Construye picks Christian Zurita as its presidential candidate
On Saturday night, the Construye Movement announced that Andrea Andrea González would replace Fernando Villavicencio as the party’s presidential candidate. On Sunday morning, the party announced it had changed its mind and that Christian Zurita would be its candidate.

Christian Zurita with Andrea González.

Zurita, a journalist, was called the “fighting brother” of Villavicencio by González, who remains the vice-presidential candidate.

According to party leaders the change was prompted by concerns that the National Elections Council would not certify González to replace Villavicencio. The switch may also have been prompted by comments from Villavicencio’s widow, Verónica Sarauz, objecting to González’s appointment on “technical grounds,” preferring that her husband remain the candidate through the election.

Zurita, who worked with Villavicencio as an investigative reporter on newspapers and websites, shares the slain candidate’s position on government corruption and crime. He and Villavicencio co-authored a book claiming corruption during the Rafael Correa government.

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