Pope Francis “condemns with all his might” the assassination of Fernando Villavicencio, Ecuador’s presidential candidate, assassinated on August 9, 2023, while campaigning. The Pope spoke out about the crime in a note published August 12. Deploring the suffering caused by this “unjustifiable violence,” the Pontiff called on “all citizens and political forces” in the Latin American country to “unite in a common effort for peace.”
After numerous episodes of violence in Ecuador, notably during protests among indigenous populations, President Guillermo Lasso decided to end his mandate and dissolve the National Assembly in 2022.
Pope Francis received Lasso, who decided not to run again, in January.
Villavicencio, a former journalist and head of an anti-corruption center-right alliance, was one of the front-runners for the early elections called for August 20, 2023.
On August 9, after giving a speech at a political rally in Quito, the politician left the scene by car when a sudden gunfight broke out. He was shot three times in the head and taken to the nearest hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The assassin also died during the attack.
Although a criminal organization has claimed responsibility for the attack, doubts persist as to who was really behind it. Ecuador’s political class has unanimously condemned the assassination.
In his message, signed by Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Pontiff offers his condolences to the family of the deceased and to the Ecuadorian people. He entrusts the politician’s eternal repose to the protection of the Virgin of El Quinche, a Marian advocation dear to the people of Ecuador, and famous for miracles.
Pope Francis may visit Ecuador in September 2024 for the next International Eucharistic Congress.