Pedro Briones, a local party leader in Ecuador, was shot dead at his home in the northern Esmeraldas province on Monday. This marks the third politically motivated assassination in the country in the past month. The fatal shooting of Briones comes just five days after presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio was shot dead in broad daylight in the capital city of Quito.
Villavicencio, who was in third place in the polls ahead of Sunday’s snap presidential election, was known for his vocal opposition to rising levels of organized crime and corruption in Ecuador. The assassinations of Briones and Villavicencio have heightened concerns over the security and stability of the country.
Luisa Gonzalez, a frontrunner in the August 20 election and a member of the same party as Briones, expressed her deep sorrow on social media, stating that Ecuador is experiencing its bloodiest era. She extended her condolences to Briones’ family and called for an end to the violence that has gripped the nation.
Following the assassinations, Gonzalez increased her security detail but refused to wear a bulletproof vest, citing her faith in God as her protector. Former Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa, founder of the Citizen Revolution party, also condemned the killings, stating that enough is enough.
Authorities have not provided specific details about the circumstances surrounding Briones’ murder, but local media reports suggest that he was shot by gunmen who fled the scene on a motorcycle. Esmeraldas province, which shares a border with Colombia, has been one of the most violent regions in Ecuador due to its location on the Pacific coast, making it an attractive location for drug trafficking. Cocaine, in particular, is transported from this region to the United States and Europe.
The wave of drug-related violence in Ecuador has claimed thousands of lives in the past three years, with local gangs and cartels from Colombia and Mexico vying for control of the streets and drug-trafficking routes. The increasing violence has prompted calls for tougher policies to combat drug-related crime.
In an effort to address the issue, prison authorities recently transferred the leader of one of Ecuador’s most powerful gangs, Los Choneros, to a maximum-security facility. Villavicencio had previously accused the gang leader, Adolfo Macias, also known as ‘Fito’, of having ties to Mexico’s notorious Sinaloa drug cartel. Villavicencio had received death threats from the gang just days before his assassination.
The recent political assassinations have sent shockwaves throughout Ecuador, raising concerns about the safety and security of politicians and citizens alike. As the country prepares for the upcoming elections, the focus on tackling drug-related violence and ensuring the safety of its citizens has become paramount.