Another political leader killed in Ecuador, days after presidential candidate’s assassination

Soldier standing with firearm while child looks on in Guayaquil, Ecuador
A soldier stands guard at a checkpoint in Duran, across a bridge from Guayaquil in Ecuador, which is experiencing a wave of political violence.
(Martin Mejia / Associated Press)
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The unprecedented violence roiling Ecuador claimed the life of another political leader Monday, bringing the number of politics-related slayings within the last four weeks to three, including last week’s assassination of a presidential candidate.

The fatal shooting of Pedro Briones, a local leader of Revolución Ciudadana, the party of former President Rafael Correa, was confirmed by Luisa González, the front-runner in Sunday’s special presidential election and member of the same party.

The shooting happened in the northern province of Esmeraldas. Details were not immediately available.


“Ecuador is experiencing its bloodiest era,” González tweeted. “A heartfelt hug to the family of colleague Pedro Briones, felled 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 Andean nation was rocked by the assassination in broad daylight of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio, a crusader against organized crime and corruption. Villavicencio was killed at the end of a political rally in Quito, the capital, despite having a security detail that included police and bodyguards.

The slayings of Briones and Villavicencio followed the July 26 fatal shooting of the mayor of Manta, Ecuador’s third-largest city. Agustín Intriago, 38, had recently been reelected to a term that began in May.

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Thousands of people have been killed over the last three years in Ecuador as the country has transformed into a major drug-trafficking hub and as cartel-aided local gangs battle for control of the streets, prisons and drug routes. Crime and violence have dominated the discussions leading up to Sunday’s election.

In an interview with the Associated Press, González said she revamped her security detail following Villavicencio’s killing but continued to refuse to wear a bulletproof vest because she places her faith in God.

“He is the one who takes care of us,” she said.

Should she become president, she said, she plans to take a tough stance on crime, cleaning up police forces, increasing control along the country’s borders and investing in equipment for law enforcement.


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González criticized the government of President Guillermo Lasso for lacking control inside detention facilities, which she said prisoners and organized crime have turned into their productive and recreational centers.

At least 400 inmates have died since 2021 during various riots.

On 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, 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 prison 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 prison where Macías was being held and seized weapons, ammunition and explosives.

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In response, prison inmates Monday protested and hung signs demanding that 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 his relocation.


Authorities have not disclosed a motive for Villavicencio’s killing. A judge Friday ordered preventive detention for six Colombian men described by authorities as being suspected of involvement in the slaying. The FBI is assisting in the investigation.

Authorities did not immediately release details of Briones’ slaying.

The country’s 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 toll ever and double the total in 2021.