Ecuador presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio was shot dead during a campaign rally in the capital Quito on Wednesday.

While Villavicencio was leaving the campaign event, an individual approached him and, as he was getting into his car, fired three shots from point-blank range, according to eyewitnesses.

A campaign team member reported that the fatal shots were aimed at Villavicencio’s head.

The incumbent president, Guillermo Lasso, who is not seeking re-election, expressed his determination that justice will be served.

The suspect who shot the Ecuador presidential candidate engaged in a gunfire exchange with security personnel. As a result, the assailant sustained severe injuries and succumbed shortly after. The assassination motivation remains under investigation. Authorities are working to establish any possible links to criminal networks.

President Lasso had previously taken steps to tackle the rising crime rates. In response to a series of killings linked to organised crime, he implemented states of emergency and night curfews in three provinces.

The first round of Ecuador’s presidential election is scheduled for 20 August 20.

A journalist turned politician, Villavicencio advocated for security reform and anti-corruption measures. His emphasis on environmental preservation set him apart from the crowd, aligning him with the growing global sustainability movement.

The late candidate’s campaign was marked by threats and intimidation. Just a week before the assassination, Villavicencio and his team reportedly received threats from a gang leader with ties to drug trafficking.

However, Villavicencio was not the frontrunner in the upcoming election.

He was one of eight contenders in the initial election round. Villavicencio’s assassination marks the latest in a series of violent attacks against political figures in the country. Manta Mayor Agustín Intriago was assassinated in July. Puerto López mayoral candidate Omar Menéndez was also brutally murdered in February.

Fellow presidential candidate and former vice president Otto Sonnenholzner expressed his grief and solidarity with Villavicencio’s family. He acknowledged the challenges facing the country and the difficult road ahead. Leading candidate Luisa Gonzales also extended her condolences.