| 11 December 2023, Monday |

New shooting mars election campaign in Ecuador

After gunshots erupted outside a restaurant where he was enjoying breakfast, a contender in Ecuador’s violent presidential election on Sunday has asked for an inquiry.

When gunfire rang out, conservative lawmaker Otto Sonnenholzner was with his family and supporters.

He is not thought to have been the intended victim. However, the effort has been tarnished by an increase in gang attacks.

Last week, candidate Fernando Villavicencio was killed in the capital.

Mr Sonnenholzner, 40, was involved in an altercation on Saturday in Guayaquil, Ecuador’s biggest city.

A video posted on social media shows the former-vice president talking to supporters in the restaurant before shots are heard, sowing panic. Local journalists said there was robbery in the vicinity.

Afterwards, Mr Sonnenholzner tweeted: “Thank God we are all fine but we demand an investigation into what happened… We can’t go on like this.”

While no other presidential candidate has been directly targeted since Mr Villavicencio’s murder in Quito, shootouts like this serve to demonstrate just how dangerous Ecuador has become.

They are, sadly, part of everyday life, especially in cities like Guayaquil which has been overrun by drug-traffickers.

Earlier this week, a similar thing happened during the campaign event of fellow candidate Daniel Noboa. And a local politician was shot dead in northern Esmeraldas province.

Candidates are eager to highlight these dangers ahead of the vote.

The shooting of Fernando Villavicencio upended campaigning, with candidates now very much focusing on peace and security – because that is what every Ecuadorean wants to be reassured about.

Bulletproof vests are also making more of an appearance on the campaign trail – and many candidates dialled down their closing campaign events, with many Ecuadoreans exercising a huge amount of caution ahead of the elections.

There is genuine concern that further violence will erupt as people prepare to vote.

Mr Villavicencio was a fiery journalist who exposed corruption and exposed linkages between organized crime and government leaders.

Six Colombian people have been arrested in connection with his killing.

On Saturday, the mayor of the seaside town of La Libertad revealed that he had been the subject of an assassination attempt.

On Friday night, assailants fired 30 rounds at Mayor Francisco Tamariz’s car, but he escaped unscathed.