Ecuadorean presidential candidate shot dead at campaign rally

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Ecuadorean presidential candidate shot dead at campaign rally

A candidate in Ecuador’s forthcoming presidential election who campaigned against corruption and gangs has been shot dead at a campaign rally.

Fernando Villavicencio, a member of the country’s national assembly, was attacked as he left the event in the capital, Quito, on Wednesday.

He is one of the few candidates to allege links between organised crime and government officials in Ecuador.

A criminal gang called Los Lobos (The Wolves) has claimed responsibility.

Los Lobos is the second-largest gang in Ecuador with some 8,000 members, many of whom are behind bars.

The gang has been involved in a number of recent deadly prison fights, in which scores of inmates have been brutally killed.

A break-away faction from the Los Choneros gang, Los Lobos is believed to have links to the Mexico-based Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), for which it traffics cocaine.

Suspicion for the killing had first fallen on Los Choneros, which had threatened Mr Villavicencio last week, but Los Lobos claimed responsibility in a video in which gang members wearing balaclavas flashed gang signs and waved their weapons.

Ecuador has historically been a relatively safe and stable country in Latin America, but crime has shot up in recent years, fuelled by the growing presence of Colombian and Mexican drug cartels, which have infiltrated local criminal gangs.

The killing comes less than a fortnight before presidential elections, in which the issue of insecurity features as the top concern.