Guayaquil — Ecuador on Sunday extended by a month a state of emergency in place since the August assassination of presidential candidate and anti-graft crusader Fernando Villavicencio, the presidency announced.
The extension comes shortly after seven Colombians arrested over Villavicencio’s killing were found dead in prison.
Six of the suspects were killed Friday in the Guayas 1 prison in the port city of Guayaquil, while a seventh was found dead Saturday in a prison in the capital Quito.
With the extension of the state of emergency, the government “guarantees the participation of the Armed Forces and the Police in the fight against organized and common crime,” President Guillermo Lasso’s communications office said on X, formerly Twitter.
Lasso on Saturday announced a “reorganization” of the country’s police leadership, with the force’s general commander, investigations chief and prisons director removed from their posts.
Tras la información de los seis crímenes ocurridos en el Centro de Privación de Libertad No. 1, en Guayaquil, he dispuesto sesionar, de inmediato, al Gabinete de Seguridad.
En las próximas horas regresaré al Ecuador para atender esta emergencia.
Ni complicidad ni…
— Guillermo Lasso (@LassoGuillermo) October 7, 2023
POST TRANSLATION: Following the information about the six crimes that occurred in the Deprivation of Liberty Center No. 1, in Guayaquil, I have ordered an immediate meeting of the Security Cabinet. In the next few hours I will return to Ecuador to attend to this emergency. Neither complicity nor cover-up, here the truth will be known.
His office also said it would file a criminal complaint against the director of the Guayaquil prison where the prisoners were said to have died amid “disturbances.”
The assassination of Villavicencio, a centrist who had been polling in second place, rocked Ecuador days ahead of the August 20 national elections in which corruption and the country’s declining security situation were major themes.
Six Colombians with long criminal records were arrested shortly after, while one was killed at the scene of the crime. Authorities arrested seven others days later.
The suspects’ deaths occurred just over a week before the October 15 runoff election between leftist frontrunner Luisa Gonzalez and challenger Daniel Noboa.
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