A journalist and presidential candidate who had denounced communist China's influence and confiscation of Ecuador's natural resources was assassinated during a shootout on Aug. 9.
Fernando Villavicencio, 59, who was slated to be on the ballot for the Aug. 20 presidential election alongside seven other contenders, was shot dead as he was leaving a campaign rally in Quito.
A candidate for the center-right Construye movement, Villavicencio was highly critical of China’s growing influence in his country.
In October, Villavicencio stated that “Ecuador has been a colony of China since 2007,” the year when Rafael Correa, an anti-American socialist currently living in exile, began his first presidential term.
Last year, as a lawmaker in the National Assembly, Villavicencio helped bring to the public's attention the fact that Ecuador had lost nearly $5 billion in oil revenue between 2009 and 2016 as a result of Correa’s oil agreements with China that gave Beijing access to preferential oil prices in exchange for loans.
Villavicencio’s anti-China and anti-corruption activism was central to the documentary "This Stolen Country of Mine", which was produced in Germany and released in 2022 and exposed the growing and far-reaching Chinese influence in Ecuador that the Communist Party was able to attain through thousands of contracts signed during Correa’s presidency (2007-2017).
The documentary detailed how the contracts signed under Correa not only made Ecuador dependent on Chinese credit funds, but also gave the communist regime in Beijing control of Ecuador’s mines, committed Ecuadorian oil to the Asian nation, and gave China influence over Ecuador’s infrastructure and natural resources, including gold and uranium mines as well as technological infrastructure.
As a journalist, Villavicencio helped expose Correa’s vast graft network that ultimately led to the ex-president's conviction in absentia on corruption charges, Christian K. Caruzo, a Venezuelan writer who documents life under socialism, wrote for Breitbart News in an Aug. 10 report.
Correa’s socialist government retaliated by carrying out a multi-year persecution campaign against Villavicencio that forced him to flee to save his life.
In 2014, Correa sentenced Villavicencio and two others to 18 months in prison for insulting him, a violation of their constitutional rights. Villavicencio was able to avoid serving jail time by seeking refuge in the indigenous community of Sarayaku, located in the south-central part of the Ecuadorian Amazon.
“The president wants me to get down on my knees and apologize,” Villavicencio said in an interview given to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) in 2014. “But I will never do that.”
Caruzo noted that Villavicencio’s murder occurred less than a month after Ecuador experienced a wave of violence that left several dead, including the mayor of Manta, Agustín Intriago, who was shot dead while carrying out an inspection of sewage works in one of Manta’s neighborhoods.