QUITO — The mayor of an Ecuadoran city said yesterday he was the victim of an attempted assassination, a day before the country goes to the polls in general elections.
Francisco Tamariz, the mayor of the coastal town of La Libertad, said he escaped unharmed from the Friday evening attack, in which gunmen fired 30 shots at his vehicle.
“They tried to kill me,” Tamariz said on X, formerly known as Twitter, adding that several people had witnessed the shooting.
In a subsequent Facebook post, he said he was returning late Friday night from nearby Guayaquil when two gunmen stepped out of a police car and opened fire on his armoured van.
“In just seconds, they started to riddle the vehicle with bullets… without ever asking who was in it,” he said in the Facebook post, appearing in a bulletproof vest alongside his wife, who was in the van with him at the time.
Ecuador will hold a presidential election today after a campaign marked by the murder of a top candidate and vows to tackle the lawlessness that has engulfed the country.
The small South American nation has in recent years become a playground for foreign drug mafias seeking to export cocaine from its shores, stirring up a brutal war between local gangs.
The murder rate has soared above those of Mexico and Colombia, and the assassinations of several politicians in the run-up to the vote underscored the challenges facing Ecuador’s leaders.
The most high-profile among them was presidential candidate and anti-corruption crusader Fernando Villavicencio, gunned down in broad daylight as he left a political rally just days ahead of the vote.
And in another development, a rightist candidate for the presidency, Otto Sonnenholzner, said Saturday on X that he had witnessed a shooting while having breakfast with his family in Guayaquil.
“Thank God we are all fine, but we demand an investigation into what happened,” said the former Ecuadoran vice president.
He said was “pained by the fear and helplessness I saw in the eyes of everyone present,” and urged the country to vote to “change course” in Sunday’s election.
After some confusion over whether Sonnenholzner had been the intended target of the shooting, he later said that there had been “a police chase a few meters away” which ended with the arrest of five “criminals who put dozens of families at risk.”
Police also said there had been a pursuit after an attempted robbery of a store. — AFP