A handout picture released on Aug 10, 2023 by the Ecuadorian Police shows six Colombian men arrested in connection with the assassination of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio in Quito. (HANDOUT / ECUADORIAN POLICE / AFP)
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, said authorities on Thursday.
The six weaponized suspects, all members of organized crime groups, were captured hiding in a house in Quito, the country's capital, 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 national police now have the first arrests of the alleged material authors of this abominable event and will employ all of their operative and investigative capacity to discover the motive of this crime and its intellectual authors.
Juan Zapata, Ecuadorian interior minister
The minister noted that the police will continue investigating and seeking a motive for the crime.
Fernando Villavicencio, Ecuador's candidate for the presidential election later this month, was killed on Wednesday in an armed attack following a political rally in Quito.
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President Guillermo Lasso said the crime was clearly an attempt to sabotage the election, but that voting would go ahead as planned on Aug 20, albeit amid a national state of emergency.
Lasso, who declared three days of mourning, said on Thursday he has asked the US Federal Bureau of Investigation for help with the investigation and that a delegation would arrive in the country in the coming hours. The FBI confirmed it was assisting.
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The armed forces were deploying all over the country and would remain deployed until the end of the electoral process, Defense Minister Luis Lara told journalists.