CNN – A candidate in Ecuador’s upcoming presidential election, Fernando Villavicencio, was assassinated at a campaign event in the capital Wednesday as a deadly escalation of violence and crime grips the South American country.
Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso vowed the killing would not go unpunished, saying that “organized crime has come a long way, but the full weight of the law will fall on them.”
Lasso announced a state of emergency for 60 days, an immediate mobilization of the armed forces across the country and three days of national mourning.
The election, scheduled for August 20, will go ahead as planned, the Electoral Council President Diana Atamaint said Thursday.
Villavicencio was shot and killed as he was leaving a campaign rally at a school north of the capital Quito, 10 days before the first round of the presidential election was set to take place.
Opinion polls had put him in the middle of the pack of the eight candidates, far behind the frontrunner Luisa González.
A legislator in the National Assembly, Villavicencio had been outspoken about corruption and the violence caused by drug trafficking in the country, telling CNN En Español Conclusiones in May that Ecuador had become a “narco state” as he proposed to lead a fight against what he called the “political mafia.”
It has launched an investigation into the attack, which injured nine people, including a candidate for the National Assembly and two police officers.
Later, the Ecuadorian Prosecutor’s Office said six people had been arrested during raids in Quito’s Conocoto and San Bartolo neighborhoods and that Villavicencio’s body had been transferred to a morgue for an autopsy.
Video circulating on social media appears to show the moment Villavicencio was fatally shot.
The footage appears to show Villavicencio walking away from the campaign rally toward a vehicle surrounded by several police officers and a crowd of onlookers. As he gets into the back seat of the vehicle, at least 12 gunshots can be heard …