The haunting words of Fernando Villavicencio, passionately voiced at a campaign rally mere moments before he was silenced by a hail of bullets, carry an eerie weight that now resonates far beyond his tragic demise. His poignant declaration, though seemingly dramatic not long ago, has become a grim reality. Villavicencio, a prominent candidate in the upcoming presidential election, was ruthlessly assassinated as he exited the rally in the capital city of Quito on Wednesday.
Yet, his assassination is just one episode in a distressing pattern.
The chilling list of incidents includes a mayor shot while inspecting public infrastructure, lifeless bodies suspended from bridges, and brazen gang leaders disseminating videos that ominously demand politicians’ compliance under the threat of death. Ecuador, once celebrated for its safety, now grapples with an unrelenting wave of violence that has reshaped its image.
In 2018, the country’s murder rate stood at a modest 5.8 per 100,000 inhabitants. The majority of the population felt secure walking alone at night, as reflected in a Gallup poll.
However, by 2022, Ecuador’s homicide rate had shockingly quadrupled, and the people’s sense of safety had plummeted. Their confidence in law enforcement to ensure their protection suffered a similar decline.
In the present day, if a poll were to be conducted, the percentage of those who feel safe would likely hit a new low.
The transformation of Ecuador from a haven of tranquility, cherished by both residents and tourists, into a nation where democratically elected representatives are mercilessly targeted, finds its roots in a toxic blend of criminal gangs and geographic positioning.
Ecuador finds itself sandwiched between Colombia and Peru, the world’s two largest cocaine producers. This geographic vulnerability has catalyzed the rise of criminal syndicates that exploit the country’s strategic location and transportation networks for illicit activities.
The intricate web of interconnected issues has plunged Ecuador into a nightmarish cycle of violence, raising critical questions about the nation’s security, governance, and resilience in the face of such daunting challenges. As the nation grapples with these grim circumstances, the quest for solutions becomes paramount to restore a sense of safety and hope for its people.