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Killing of Ecuador candidate reveals surging violence in Ecuador

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Quito: Six suspects arrested in connection with the assassination of Ecuadorian presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio and another suspect who was shot dead are all foreigners, authorities said on Thursday.

The six suspects, all members of organized crime groups, were carrying weapons and captured hiding in a house in Quito, said a police report.

Describing the killing as “a political crime of a terrorist nature,” Ecuadorian Interior Minister Juan Zapata confirmed all suspects are foreigners without revealing their nationalities.

The minister noted that the police will continue investigating and seeking a motive for the crime.

Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso on Thursday decreed three days of national mourning for presidential candidate Villavicencio.

The assassination, which the government attributed to organized crime, occurred amid the electoral campaign for elections, which will go ahead as planned on Aug. 20, Lasso said.

The president also decreed a 60-day state of emergency throughout the country “due to serious internal upheaval,” which included the mobilization of the armed forces and the police to maintain order and public safety.

Shot and killed on Wednesday following a political rally, the 59-year-old presidential candidate was a journalist and former National Assembly member, who forged his political career with a series of denunciations of corruption. He was, according to polls, in fourth place for early general elections.

After sweeping the crime scene, police found the firearm that was used in the attack, as well as a grenade-like explosive device that was thrown at police units but did not explode.

The country has faced a series of political upheavals in recent years. Increased violence, assassinations, prison riots and dozens of bomb attacks have killed over 20 police officers so far in 2023.

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