DAULE: An Ecuadoran municipal councillor was kidnapped and killed in the latest political violence to rock the South American country just weeks before a presidential vote, officials said yesterday.
Bolivar Vera, from Duran in the drug violence-hobbled Guayas province in Ecuador’s west, was found dead yesterday in a wooded area, bloodied and with his hands tied, the prosecutor’s office said on social media.
He had been shot.
Vera had been reported missing by his municipal colleagues on Thursday.
According to police official Paul Villavicencio, Vera’s body had “several gunshots apparently in the head and … chest”.
His killing comes after the assassination on Aug 9 of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio ahead of the first round of voting in Ecuador’s general election.
A second round is scheduled for Oct 15.
A mayor, an MP and a local political leader have also been killed during the election campaign.
The country, until a few years ago a peaceful haven nestled between the world’s largest cocaine producers – Colombia and Peru – has recently descended into violence as it has itself become a hub for drug trafficking.
Rival gangs with links to Colombian and Mexican cartels regularly clash in prisons, with more than 430 inmates killed since 2021, often leaving a trail of burned and dismembered bodies.
The Ecuadoran city most affected by the violence has been the sprawling port of Guayaquil in the southwest, used by the fast-expanding drug trade to smuggle narcotics to Europe and the US.
The municipal government of Duran offered its condolences yesterday to Vera’s loved ones.
An AFP team was present when investigators found his body among trees next to a major route north of Guayaquil as a group of women cried nearby.
Vera was a member of the right-wing Social Christian Party and was elected to the council for the 2023-27 period.
The UN said yesterday that poverty was the root cause of surging violence and crime in Ecuador.
“A lack of job opportunities and poor education have made young people easy recruits for criminal gangs,” UN special rapporteur on poverty and human rights, Olivier De Schutter, said in a statement.
“And these gangs are in turn fuelling poverty by extorting small businesses, taking hold in schools and disrupting children’s education, and creating such fear and despair that a growing number of Ecuadorans are simply leaving the country. This vicious cycle can only be broken if the country invests more in its people,” he said.