Ecuadorians go to the polls today to elect a president under the shadow of the shooting death in a rally, on the 8th, of the candidate Fernando Villavicencio. The growth of organized crime and this shooting have shaken Ecuador and marked the elections from head to toe.
In this country of 17 million inhabitants that lives on oil, tourism and food exports, the penetration of narcos is increasing, and thus instability has taken root.
The shadow of the magnicide has come to an end. The closure of the candidates' campaign has been highlighted by the use of bulletproof vests and the fear of the presence of snipers.
Otto Sonnenholzner, former vice president and candidate, had a scare yesterday when a shooting was reported near where he was having breakfast, in the coastal province of Guayas.
"I am pained by the fear and helplessness I saw in the eyes of everyone present. We can't continue like this", he said. The police assured that there was "a police pursuit" which gave results and which they will report "in due course".
It is not clear the electoral impact that the assassination of Villavicencio – he was fourth in the polls – will have on his replacement, Christian Zurita, challenged by the party close to ex-president Correa, Revolución Ciutadana.
Zurita, from the centrist party Construye, has only had one day to campaign. In fact, the ballot papers have Villavicencio's photo, and the votes will be awarded to Zurita when his registration is confirmed after the elections.
The preferred candidate in the polls is Luisa González, of the Citizen Revolution party - much criticized for having presented objections to Zurita's candidacy - and the Correistas, a political current that governed the country under the presidency of Rafael Correa. Gonzalez plans to increase spending on social assistance, but is conservative on social issues and opposes abortion, even for rape victims.
The second favorite candidate in the polls is Otto Sonnenholzner. Businessman, radio journalist and economist, during the presidency of Lenín Moreno, after the resignation of María Alejandra Vicuña, he was elected vice-president, but resigned the position to run for the presidency. The candidate belongs to the Actuem party, and proposes to increase social spending. He is against Correa's followers and plans to increase control in prisons, increase investment in technology and invest in the army.
Yaku Pérez, indigenous and who ran unsuccessfully in the presidential elections, is the third best placed candidate. He defends indigenous rights and is critical of oil and mining projects that destroy the environment. It belongs to a left far from authoritarianism.
Another candidate is Jan Topic, businessman and former member of the French Foreign Legion. With the support of the conservative Christian Social Party, he is the most extreme right-wing candidate. He proposes an iron fist against organized crime and uses his past as a security expert, sniper and paratrooper.
Indecision, in any case, marks these presidential elections. In the latest polls, 40% of voters still had not decided their vote.
More than 13 million Ecuadorians are able to exercise their right to vote, of which more than 600,000 are 16 years old. Although in Ecuador voting is compulsory from the age of 18, citizens aged 16 and 17 are allowed to vote.
If no candidate gets at least 40% of the votes and a difference of ten points over the rest, there will be a second round.