Candidate in Ecuador’s presidential election Fernando Villavicencio shot dead

A candidate in Ecuador’s forthcoming presidential election who campaigned against corruption and gangs has been shot dead at a campaign rally.

Fernando Villavicencio, a member of the country’s national assembly, was attacked as he left the event in the capital, Quito, on Wednesday.

He is one of the few candidates to allege links between organised crime and government officials in Ecuador.

President Guillermo Lasso said organised crime was behind the killing.

Ecuador has historically been a relatively safe and stable country in Latin America, but crime has shot up in recent years, fuelled by the growing presence of Colombian and Mexican drug cartels, which have infiltrated local criminal gangs.

Fernando Villavicencio had received threats from a gang calling itself Los Choneros last month and had been given a security detail.

Following his murder, a video appeared on social media in which heavily armed men wearing balaclavas claimed responsibility for the murder. The men claim to belong to Los Lobos (The Wolves), who are rivals of Los Choneros.

But hours later, another video appeared online in which another group of men – this time not wearing masks – claimed they were Los Lobos and denied they had played a role in the assassination, claiming the other video was an attempt by their rivals to set them up for the murder.

Both gangs wield considerable power and the violence they have sowed has been one of the key concerns of Ecuadoreans ahead of presidential elections on 20 August.

Mr Villavicencio, who was married and had five children, was one of eight candidates in the first round of the election – although he was not the frontrunner and was polling around the middle of the pack.

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