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Pope Condemns ‘Unjustifiable’ Assassination Of Ecuadorian Presidential Candidate

 

Pope Francis on Saturday strongly condemned the “unjustifiable” assassination of an Ecuadorian presidential candidate and urged all Ecuadorians to work together for peace.

Reports from Quito, the capital of Ecuador say several Colombians have been arrested in connection with the murder of Fernando Villavicencio, as the body of the assassinated Ecuadorian presidential candidate was buried in a private ceremony in the country’s capital on Friday night.

Pope Francis on Saturday strongly condemned the “unjustifiable” assassination of an Ecuadorian presidential candidate and urged all Ecuadorians to work together for peace.

History’s first Latin American pope sent a telegram of condolence following the brazen assassination of Villavicencio at a political rally Wednesday in the capital Quito.

The killing of a figure whose life work was fighting crime and corruption has focused global attention on Ecuador’s wave of violent deaths and the country’s vulnerability to criminality.

The pope, an Argentine Jesuit who visited Ecuador in 2015 in one of the first trips of his pontificate, said he was praying for Villavicencio’s family and all Ecuador’s people.

“Likewise, in the face of the suffering caused by unjustifiable violence, which he condemns with all his forces, His Holiness calls on all citizens and political forces to join in a common effort in favor of peace,” said the telegram, which was signed by the Vatican secretary of state.

Ecuador has detained six Colombian men in connection with the slaying.

In his final speech as a candidate for the presidency, Villavicencio promised to continue his work combating Ecuador’s law and order problems, telling a crowd he would lock up “thieves” responsible for a culture of entrenched corruption.

He had previously said he was the target of death threats from multiple parties, including one of the largest Mexican drug cartels. In a statement shortly before he died, he said: “Here I am showing my face. I’m not scared of them.”

The 59-year-old was laid to rest in the Monteolivo cemetery in northern Quito, his campaign team confirmed to CNN en Español. They said the burial was carried out in deep privacy, with his coffin escorted by members of the police along with his closest relatives.

The killing of Villavicencio, who belonged to the Movimiento Construye political party, came just 10 days before the first round of the presidential election was set to take place.

The suspected shooter died earlier in police custody following an exchange of fire with security personnel, though his nationality remains unclear.

The Andean country, a relatively peaceful nation until a few years ago, is now plagued by a deteriorating security crisis fueled by drug trafficking and a turf war between rival criminal organizations.

Violence has been most pronounced on Ecuador’s Pacific coast as criminal groups battle to control and distribute narcotics, primarily cocaine.

The assassination prompted an outpouring of condemnation from inside Ecuador and around the world, including from the UN Human Rights chief, the United States and European Union.

During the investigation, authorities seized a rifle, a machine gun, four pistols, three grenades, two rifle magazines, four boxes of ammunition, two motorcycles, and a stolen vehicle believed to have been used by the suspects.

The attack also prompted President Guillermo Lasso to request help from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, and he tweeted earlier that a delegation would soon be arriving in the country. — Agencies

Source: Agencies/SG

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