Ecuador: Party Replaces Slain Presidential Candidate With Christian Zurita –

The party of Ecuador’s slain presidential candidate has tapped a reporter, Christian Zurita, to take his place on the ballot as several contenders to lead the South American nation in a vote later this month.

The Movimiento Construye political party announced on Sunday that Journalist Christian Zurita will take the place of the assassinated Fernando Villavicencio in the August 20 election.

Villavicencio, a 59-year-old journalist, known for his anti-corruption crusades, was gunned down as he left a campaign rally in the capital, Quito, on Wednesday night.

The naming of Zurita as the party’s candidate is a reversal from Saturday when Construye had said Villavicencio’s running mate, Andrea Gonzalez, would take the spot.

However, the party officials are worried that Gonzalez’s candidacy might be thrown out by election authorities since she was already registered as the vice presidential candidate for the vote.

Villavicencio had been polling in second place before his rude assassination took place.

In a sign of the apprehension now pervading the campaign, Zurita and another candidate, Daniel Noboa, appeared on Sunday evening at a television studio wearing bulletproof vests before a national debate amid heavy security presence.

Zurita and Gonzalez, however, said they were barred from taking part in the debate. An election official told journalists that Zurita’s documentation had been submitted only minutes before the debate, which meant that he was not officially a candidate at the time of the event.

“Without Fernando, there is no debate,” said Zurita, 53, near the location where the other seven candidates were presenting their ideas.

Six Colombians have so far been arrested and another killed in the police investigation into the assassination.

At a news conference on Sunday, police commander General Fausto Salinas said those apprehended for the murder had long criminal records, having committed an “infinity of crimes” related to weapons and drug trafficking, kidnapping and theft.

Interior Minister Juan Zapata said investigators were continuing to look into who might have ordered the killing of Villavicencio.

Imprisoned gang leader Jose Adolfo “Fito” Macias had allegedly threatened Villavicencio before he was killed. Macias was transferred to a maximum-security prison via a massive military and police operation on Saturday, but no specific gang has been officially blamed for the assassination.

However, Villavicencio’s widow, Veronica Sarauz, blamed the state for her husband’s death, accusing police of not adequately protecting him.

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