QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — A seventh man accused in the August assassination of an Ecuadorian presidential candidate was killed inside a prison in Ecuador’s capital, authorities said Saturday, a day after six others allegedly linked to the crime were slain in a different lockup.
The killing of the seven suspects happened a little more than a week before Ecuador holds a presidential runoff election and as officials struggle to explain how this was possible.
The prison system said in a press release that the man killed was being held at a prison in Quito, Ecuador’s capital. It released no details of how it happened and identified him only “José M.,” without giving his nationality.
Six Colombian men charged in the Aug. 9 assassination of Fernando Villavicencio were killed Friday inside a prison in Guayaquil.
President Guillermo Lasso called an emergency meeting of his security Cabinet, which decided to move the remaining six suspects in the assassination to a different prison, a government statement said. It didn’t identify the prison to which they were sent for security reasons.
The government also fired the prisons system director and the police chief of investigations, the presidential communication office said in a press release.
The killings came as the Prosecutor’s Office is expected to announce soon the conclusion of the investigation stage into the killing of Villavicencio, who was gunned down while leaving a political rally.
The 59-year-old politician had not been considered among the front-runners for the election’s first round on Aug. 20, but his killing in broad daylight was a shocking reminder of the surge in crime gripping Ecuador. He had reported being threatened by affiliates of Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel, one of the many international organized crime groups operating in Ecuador.
Ecuador is holding the runoff presidential election Oct. 15 pitting the two top finishers in the August vote — leftist Luisa González and former lawmaker Daniel Noboa, who is the son of a banana tycoon.