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US offers $5mn reward on 'masterminds' of Ecuadorean presidential candidate's murder

IANS | September 29, 2023 10:39 AM

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a $5 million reward for information leading to the "masterminds" who carried out the assassination of Ecuadorean presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio in August.

"Today, I am announcing a reward offer under the Transnational Organized Crime Rewards Program of up to $5 million for information leading to the arrest or conviction of co-conspirators and masterminds behind the assassination of Ecuadorian presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio, " Blinken was quoted as saying in a release issued by the State Department on Thursday.

The Secretary of State also announced a "second reward offer up to $1 million for information leading to the identification or location of any individual holding a key leadership position in the Transnational Organized Crime group responsible for Villavicencio’s homicide".

Multiple assassins attacked Villavicencio, the Movimiento Construye party’s presidential candidate in the 2023 elections, as he left a campaign event in capital Quito on August 9.

The Ecuadorian National Police have arrested six Colombian nationals, believed to be part of an organized crime group, as part of the assassination plot.

"The investigation, supported by the FBI, continues to identify others involved in the assassination. The US will continue to support the people of Ecuador and work to bring to justice individuals who seek to undermine democratic processes through violent crime, " Blinken was quoted as saying.

Villavicencio's election campaign had focused on tackling corruption and criminal gangs, and he was one of the few candidates to allege links between organized crime and government officials in Ecuador.

A serving congressman and former journalist, he had condemned what he said was the lenient approach to the gangs, saying that were he to come to power, there would be a crackdown.

Just weeks before he was killed, the mayor of the Ecuadorian city of Manta was shot dead.

In February, the mayor of Puerto Lopez was murdered while touring his city.

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