ECUADOR IN TURMOIL

Monday, 02 October 2023

The United States last Wednesday offered a $5 million reward for information leading to the arrest of the perpetrators of the assassination of Ecuador presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio.

In a crime reminiscent of the infamous murder of Colombian politician, Luis Carlos Galan, Villavicencio was killed at a public rally in Quito as he addressed his followers two months ago.  Villavicencio had denounced corruption and had pledged to fight the wave of crime afflicting Ecuador today. Criminal gangs have practically taken over smaller Ecuadorian cities such as Manta and Puerto Lopez. But Guayaquil, a metropolis of 2.5 million people, and Quito, the capital, have also been affected by drug-related violence. 

Ecuador has been a relatively peaceful, crime-free country. However, in the last decade, Peruvian, Colombian, and Mexican drug cartels, attracted by good transportation routes to the United States and a dollar-denominated economy, have set up operations there. 

All of this is happening while the government faces a major constitutional crisis.  In May of this year, President Guillermo Lasso dissolved the National Assembly triggering new legislative and presidential elections. He took that unusual but constitutional action as he was preparing to defend himself in an impeachment process. He was accused of accepting bribes in connection with a contract awarded by the state-owned oil transportation company. The opposition parties, which control the national assembly, complained that the impeachment process had been, for all practical purposes, terminated. The Ecuadorian army and the police have respected the constitutional mechanism that allowed Lasso’s action and have remained neutral.  

The Pan American Association is planning to hold a Summit on Latin American Democracy in April 2024.  

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