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Politician in Ecuador killed less than a week after presidential candidate’s assassination

Revolucion Ciudadana local party leader Pedro Briones was fatally shot in Ecuador on Monday. He is the third politician to be killed in a month as violence rocks the country.

Pedro Briones, a regional leader in the Revolucion Ciudadana party, was shot on Monday

A soldier stands in front of a wall with graffiti.

The unprecedented violence shaking Ecuador claimed the life of another political leader on Monday, bringing the number of politics-related slayings within the last four weeks to three, including that of a presidential candidate.

The fatal shooting of Pedro Briones, a local leader of Revolucion Ciudadana, the party of former president Rafael Correa, was confirmed by Luisa Gonzalez, the front-runner in Sunday's special presidential election and member of the same party.

The shooting happened in the northern province of Esmeraldas. Details were not immediately available.

"Ecuador is experiencing its bloodiest era," Gonzalez tweeted. "A heartfelt hug to the family of colleague Pedro Briones, fallen by the hands of violence."

The killing of Briones, who was a political leader in a rural area of San Mateo de Esmeraldas, came less than a week after the South American country was rocked by the assassination in broad daylight of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio, who had a famously tough stance on organized crime and corruption.

Villavicencio was killed at the end of a political rally in Quito, the capital, despite having a security detail that included police and bodyguards.

Forensic investigators work on a street that's cordoned off by police tape.

Their slayings followed the July 26 fatal shooting of the mayor of Manta, Ecuador's third-largest city. Agustin Intriago, 38, had recently been re-elected to a term that began in May.

Thousands of people have been killed over the past three years in Ecuador as the country has transformed into a major drug trafficking hub and cartel-aided local gangs battle for control of the streets, prisons and drug routes. Crime and violence have dominated the discussions around Sunday's election.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Gonzalez said she revamped her security detail following Villavicencio's killing but continued to refuse to wear a bulletproof vest, arguing that she is a Christian woman.

"I have faith in God; he is the one who takes care of us," she said.

Ecuador presidential candidate Luisa Gonzalez speaking, gesturing with her hand.

Should she become president, she said she plans to take a tough stance on crime, cleaning up police forces, increasing control along the country's borders and investing in equipment for law enforcement.

Authorities have not disclosed a motive for Villavicencio's killing. An Ecuadorian judge on Friday ordered preventive detention for six Colombian men described by authorities as being suspected of involvement in the slaying. The FBI is assisting in the investigation.

Authorities did not immediately release details of Briones' slaying.

The country's National Police tallied 3,568 violent deaths in the first six months of this year, far more than the 2,042 reported during the same period in 2022. That year ended with 4,600 violent deaths, the country's highest in history and double the total in 2021.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story identified Pedro Briones as leader of the Revolucion Ciudadana party. He is in fact a local party leader in the province of Esmeraldas.
    Aug 15, 2023 6:08 PM ET

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