News Release

Assassinated Ecuadorian Presidential Candidate’s Family Calls Killing a “State Crime”


AP reports today on the recent assassination of Ecuadorian presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio, who it describes as “a crusader against organized crime and corruption” as well as the assasination of political leader Pedro Briones on Monday, “bringing the number of politics-related slayings within the last four weeks to three. …

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


Johnston is a senior research associate at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C., which just released a statement: “Family members of Ecuadorian presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio have raised suspicions of state involvement in Villavicencio’s assassination on Wednesday as he left a campaign rally. Others familiar with some of the details of the crime have also suggested there could be state involvement.

“Villavicencio’s widow described the assassination as ‘a state crime.’ Her late husband was under the protection of the state. Villavicencio’s sister has also blamed the Lasso government for her brother’s death.

“In April, members of the U.S. Congress, in a letter to President Biden, referred to  ‘documentary evidence that an anti-narcotics investigation had been shut down as a result of government pressure because it would have exposed the business dealings of a close associate of [Danilo] Carrera … with a well-known drug trafficking organization.’ Danilo Carrera is President Lasso’s brother-in-law and most important business partner.

“’Villavicencio built his campaign on an anti-corruption, anti-narco platform, and it seems he was targeted by those criminal organizations operating in Ecuador and with the complicity of the state,’ said Amanda Mattingly, head of ACM Global Intelligence, an international risk consulting firm.

“‘All of these connections between organized crime figures and government officials, up to the highest levels, give credence to the allegations that Villavicencio’s murder may have been a state crime,’ said Mark Weisbrot, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

“Multiple videos show Fernando Villavicencio being escorted by police personnel to a vehicle that did not comply with the most basic security standards. The car was not an armored or bulletproof vehicle. The police confirmed this fact the following day in a press conference, admitting that Villavicencio’s armored car was in Guayaquil where he had been in the morning and that the car arrived five minutes after the deadly attack.

“The video material also shows that there was no security on the far side of the car, the flank from where the shots were fired. None of the police officers got in the car with Villavicencio. …

“Some investors and analysts say the assassination is likely to boost the odds of a right-wing candidate such as Otto Sonnenholzner or Jan Topic becoming president, while harming the prospects of current frontrunner Luisa Gonzalez, who represents the political movement of former president Rafael Correa.” See full statement for further specifics. Also see this recent New York Times piece.

Johnston is co-author of a just-released report, “Ecuador: A Decade of Progress, Undone,” He is author of the book Aid State: Elite Panic, Disaster Capitalism, and the Battle to Control Haiti.