Ecuadorian Mayor Assassinated in Broad Daylight Ahead of Presidential Elections

Wim De Gent
By Wim De Gent
July 24, 2023World News
Ecuadorian Mayor Assassinated in Broad Daylight Ahead of Presidential Elections
Ecuadorean soldiers and police officers take part in a security operation at the Rivera del Rio neighborhood in Esmeraldas, Ecuador, on April 21, 2023. (Enrique Ortiz/AFP via Getty Images)

Agustín Intriago, Major of Manta, Ecuador’s third-largest city, was assassinated on Sunday by hitmen, who opened fire at him during a visit to a construction site. One bystander was also killed, and four others were injured.

The 38-year-old mayor was hit in the chest by at least three bullets during a public event unveiling a construction project in the city. He was rushed to hospital for emergency treatment, but physicians were unable to save his life. It was reported that Intriago had previously received death threats, and had requested police protection.

The mayor’s death was first announced by his sister, Ana Intriago, on Twitter.

“My brother is dead, pray for his soul’s rest, this crime cannot go unpunished please, let’s not allow these evildoers to win,” she posted, a message followed an hour later by a second plea for justice.

“Darkness, evil has won this time, let’s not let them continue to win, no impunity, punish the wicked!”

The assassination was later confirmed by Interior Minister Juan Zapata, who condemned the “reprehensible act,” adding that the police “will not rest until they find those responsible.”

Ariana Estefanía Chancay, a 29-year-old footballer for local club Las Dragonas, also lost her life in the attack. According to local media, she had just approached the mayor to gain support for her amateur soccer team when the shooting occurred.

After the shooting, the police immediately went in pursuit of the hitmen, who were driving a stolen van. During the chase, the assassins’ vehicle crashed, injuring the driver, who was arrested.

The gunman is still on the loose.

Mr. Intriago was on his second 4-year term after his 2023 reelection. He was a member of the Citizen Revolution Movement, Ecuador’s biggest opposition party led by former president Rafael Correa. His assassination occurred less than a month away from the August 20 presidential elections.

Mr. Intriago’s murder is the third successful assassination of a mayoral candidate in Ecuador this year.

In the small coastal town of Puerto López in February, 41-year-old candidate Omar Menéndez was shot just hours before polls opened. Here too, a random bystander lost his life. The gunmen escaped on a motorcycle. After the vote count, it was found that Mr. Menéndez had won the election.

In January, a mayoral candidate for the coastal city of Salinas, Julio César Farachio, was shot dead by a convicted drug trafficker who had recently been released from prison.

In May, Luis Chonillo, mayor of Duran, narrowly escaped an assassination attempt on his first day in office.

Mayors haven’t been the only assassination targets in Ecuador. Last week, congressional candidate Otto Sonnenholzner was killed in what appeared to be a robbery attempt. In June, Jairo Olaya, a city council member of the coastal city of Esmeraldas, was murdered.

Ecuador has seen a surge in violence caused by rival drug gangs in recent years, making it one of the most volatile countries in South America as a result.

According to security analysts, Mexican and Colombian cartels have been infiltrating local Ecuadorean gangs. Coastal cities have been the main battleground of drug gangs fighting over access to the ports, from which cocaine is smuggled out of the country via the Pacific ocean.

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