With Bulletproof Vests And Military Escorts, Ecuador Faces Its Most Violent Elections

One week before the second round voting, the two candidates for the presidency of Ecuador have reinforced their security scheme. These have been the most violent elections in the history of Ecuador .

Candidate Luisa Gonzalez wearing bulletproof vest

Photo: EFE/José Jácome

Susana Madera | EFE

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Leer en español: Con chalecos antibalas y escoltas militares, Ecuador enfrenta sus elecciones más violentas

The extraordinary elections in Ecuador in 2023 will go down in history as those of bulletproof vests, a garment that has become indispensable in the public activities of the candidates , among other unprecedented images of escorts and bodyguards, already converted into routine as a result of the murder of Fernando Villavicencio.

The use of the bulletproof vest in the campaign became evident after the murder on August 9 of the then presidential candidate and former assemblyman Fernando Villavicencio , when he was leaving a political rally in Quito eleven days before the first electoral round.

Villavicencio, who had reported death threats days before the crime, was replaced by Christian Zurita, who had a security device never seen before when he went to vote with a bulletproof vest, an armored helmet and a large group of bodyguards who surrounded him with a shield. deployable bulletproof.

And the strong security measures have continued in the second round campaign, which is defined this Sunday between the runner Luisa González (Citizen Revolution) and the young businessman Daniel Noboa (National Democratic Action).

As a result of Villavicencio's murder, Noboa also began to wear a bulletproof vest in the first round, while González put it on well into the second round campaign, after the report of an alleged plan to attack her also surfaced.

Both Noboa and González also have a large team of bodyguards, made up of heavily armed police and military personnel who accompany them in all their activities and who hardly leave them when they participate in public events.

Only the Vice Presidential candidates Andrés Arauz (Citizen Revolution) and Verónica Abad (ADN) each have more than twenty agents assigned, as revealed by the Police last week.

Read also: Final Stretch Of Elections In Ecuador: This Is The Panorama a Week Before

The most violent elections

According to the Citizen Observatory of Political Violence, the 2023 elections have been the most violent elections in the history of Ecuador, with 88 cases of political violence, including the murder of Villavicencio and that of the mayor of Manta, Agustín Intriago.

In these extraordinary elections, these attacks were on candidates (43%), popular election authorities (24%), appointment authorities (14%) and 5% on other political actors such as former candidates, among other dignities.

The attacks include murders (34%), attacks (48%), threats (10%), kidnappings (5%) and assaults (3%).

According to Fausto Camacho, a member of the Observatory, although "the presence of violence in politics is not a new fact", "the levels reached on this occasion are absolutely unprecedented."

The electoral expert lamented that acts of violence in general are becoming "normalized" in public opinion and attributed the insecurity to the fight of organized crime groups for control of the territory, "in order to guarantee their illicit action related to drug trafficking." and human trafficking", among other crimes.

"Dome Society"

For political analyst César Ulloa, the second round has been a "quite insipid campaign", which occurs in a context "of civic fatigue, boredom of the political class, but also fear of insecurity."

Ulloa highlighted that open rallies have been greatly reduced and, when they are held, there are no major advance announcements, which is why he believes that "politics stopped being the public space par excellence and became a space of confinement."

The analyst now sees "selective concentrations", a kind of "micro-segments, like extremely chosen electoral niches", and in that sense, the candidates have opted for meetings with university students, groups of recyclers, cultural and sports managers, professional unions and even "influencers" of social networks, among others.

He attributed this change to the assassination of Villavicencio, after which "a new way of proselytism has been inaugurated," where "a lot of secrecy" is kept about politicians' agendas.

"We have a super-vigilant campaign, and you no longer only record the rally for communication, but you also record or monitor to see if there is a suspect on the street," he told EFE, adding that the population is also fearful of the increase in insecurity.

In five years, Ecuador has gone from 5.8 to 25.32 intentional homicides per 100,000 inhabitants in 2022 , the highest number since records have been recorded, and experts predict that it could even reach 40 by the end of the year.

"We have changed so much, in such a short time, and in such an intense way!" exclaimed Ulloa, believing that "people are becoming more and more confined," while electoral proselytism is like "the society of domes" in the face of priority that occurs in closed spaces compared to traditional large concentrations.

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