President Guillermo Lasso announced on August 10, 2023, that he had sought assistance from the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to investigate the murder of Fernando Villavicencio. The request was promptly accepted.
Interior Minister Juan Zapata reported that FBI investigators had arrived in Ecuador to assist in the investigation of the assassination of Fernando Villavicencio. Speaking at a press conference held on August 13, 2023, Zapata informed the public that the FBI had already established contact with the National Police. He further revealed that a tripartite meeting was scheduled with the Prosecutor’s Office, which holds the lead in the investigation, to outline the scope of their collaborative efforts.
Zapata emphasized that substantial progress had been made in apprehending the culprits behind Villavicencio’s murder, which occurred on August 9th. As investigations pressed forward, he said that regular updates on the investigation’s progress would be shared in conjunction with the Prosecutor’s Office.
Freddy Sarzosa, the director of National Directorate of Crimes Against Life, Violent Deaths, Disappearances, Extortion and Kidnappings (DINASED), emphasized the cooperative efforts to be established between the Prosecutor’s Office and the FBI investigators. Together, they would determine the guidelines for international cooperation and investigative procedures to be conducted alongside the Ecuadorian National Police.
Fausto Salinas, General Commander of the National Police, reminded the public that the arrested individuals connected to the assassination were Colombian nationals. He stated that they were currently detained within a social rehabilitation center.
Prior Experience with FBI
This marked the fourth instance since 2018, when Ecuador was gripped by a security crisis, that the nation had turned to the FBI for assistance in investigating crimes linked to drug-criminal organizations. In this instance, the FBI’s involvement may be vital to uncovering the circumstances surrounding Fernando Villavicencio’s tragic murder.
Fernando Villavicencio, a presidential candidate representing the Construye Movement and a former assembly member, was fatally shot on August 9, 2023, during an armed attack following a political rally in Quito. The Lasso government, determined to bring the perpetrators to justice, solicited FBI assistance due to its expertise in national security and intelligence.
Ecuador’s reliance on the FBI dates to earlier security crises. Notably, in 2018, a car bomb exploded near the San Lorenzo police station, attributed to the Oliver Sinisterra Front, a FARC dissident group with ties to Mexican drug cartels. This event marked the beginning of an escalating wave of violence along the northern border. The FBI sent a specialized team to investigate the incident, aiding in identifying the explosives used.
In 2022, a devastating explosion rocked the Calle 8 neighborhood in Guayaquil. The FBI was again enlisted to investigate the terrorist attack, where explosives experts identified the use of ammonium nitrate in the bomb. The National Risk Management Service reported five deaths and17 injuries related to the attack.
Moreover, the FBI’s involvement extended to training the Ecuadorian National Police in anti-terrorist techniques in May 2023. Over 1,700 police officers underwent intensive training in various areas, bolstering specialized police units such as the Intervention and Rescue Group (GIR), the Special Operations Group (GOE), and the Anti-Narcotics Directorate.
As Ecuador and the United States collaborate through the FBI to delve into the circumstances surrounding Fernando Villavicencio’s assassination, this alliance represents a significant step towards justice, reflecting Ecuador’s ongoing commitment to combating criminal organizations and ensuring national security.