Another Ecuadorian politician shot dead
Ecuadorian Local party leader Pedro Briones was shot dead by gunmen at his home in the northern Esmeraldas province on Monday, in what appears to be the latest in a string of politically motivated assassinations in the country.
The fatal shooting of Briones came just five days after presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio was murdered in broad daylight in the capital Quito last Wednesday. Villavicencio, an outspoken opponent of rising levels of organized crime and corruption in the country, was polling third ahead of Sunday’s snap presidential election.
Luisa Gonzalez, a frontrunner in the August 20 election for the Citizen Revolution party, of which Briones was also a member, claimed on social media that “Ecuador is experiencing its bloodiest era,” before offering “A heartfelt hug to the family of colleague Pedro Briones, fallen by the hands of violence.”
Gonzalez told the Associated Press that she had beefed up her own security detail following the assassinations, but refused to wear a bulletproof vest. “I have faith in God,” she said. “He is the one who takes care of us.”
Former Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa, founder of the Citizen Revolution party, added: “They murdered another of our colleagues in Esmeraldas. Enough is enough!”
Authorities did not elaborate on the specific circumstances of Briones’ murder, but local media reported that he was shot dead by gunmen who later fled on a motorcycle.
Esmeraldas province, situated on Ecuador’s border with Colombia, has been one of the worst-affected regions for violence in the country, as its location on the Pacific coast makes it an attractive location from which to traffic drugs, particularly cocaine, to the United States and Europe.
On July 26, Augustin Intriago, mayor of Ecuador’s third-largest city Manta, was also fatally shot just weeks after his re-election in May.
Waves of increasing drug-related violence have led to thousands of deaths in Ecuador in the past three years as local gangs, aided by cartels from Colombia and Mexico, battled for influence and control of the streets and drug-trafficking routes. Policies designed to reduce drug-related violence have dominated the narrative ahead of this weekend’s elections.
On Saturday, prison authorities relocated the leader of one of Ecuador’s most powerful gangs, Los Choneros, into a maximum security facility. Villavicencio had previously accused the group’s leader, Adolfo Macias, known as ‘Fito’, of links to Mexico’s powerful Sinaloa drug cartel – and said that he had received threats to his life from the group just days before his assassination.