Massive Shakedown By Troops In Guayaquil Prison As Gang Leader Believed To Be Behind Presidential Candidate Assassination Is Moved To Secure Unit.

Photo credit: Ecuadorian armed forces. A gang leader linked to the recent assasination of a presidential candidate is removed by troops to a secure unit.
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Thousands of Ecuadorian soldiers and police were involved in a dawn operation perform a massive shakedown in Guayaquil’s Prison 8 and remove notorious gang leader linked to the assassination of a presidential candidate to a maximum security jail. Guns, explosives, and even a working gallows were found and confiscated.

Jose Adolfo Macias, known as “Fito” is accused of sending death threats to Ecuador’s murdered presidential candidate, Fernando Villavicencio.

The anti-corruption campaigner was shot three times in the head leaving a campaign rally on Wednesday.

Before his murder Mr Villavicencio said he had been threatened by Fito.

“If I continue… mentioning Los Choneros [the gang], they are going to break me,” he said.

His death has shocked a nation that has largely escaped the decades of drug-gang violence, cartel wars and corruption that has blighted many of its neighbours. Crime has however shot up in recent years, fuelled by the growth of Colombian and Mexican drug cartels.

On Saturday, his Construye party announced his running mate, Andrea Gonzalez as its presidential candidate in Mr Villavicencio’s place.

Ms Gonzalez’s career has largely focussed on environmental issues, and the party said she would “guarantee the legacy” of Mr Villavicencio.

Meanwhile, Mr Villavicencio’s widow Veronica Sarauz said she held the state responsible for her husband’s death, and said she was unhappy Ms Gonzalez had been named as her husband’s replacement to contest the election.

Mr Villavicencio’s campaign focused on corruption and drugs. He was one of the only candidates to allege links between organised crime and Ecuadorian government officials.

The day before his assassination, he complained to the Public Prosecutor’s Office about alleged irregularities in oil contracts negotiated during former president Rafael Correa’s administration which had cost the country US $9bn (£7 bn).

Six Colombians have been arrested in connection with the murder, while a seventh was killed in a shootout. The authorities have not said who hired and paid the hitmen.

Gang leader Fito had been held in Prison 8 in Guayaquil since 2011, and videos shared by security forces showed him handcuffed in his underwear as security forces moved him to another facility.

Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso said Fito had been moved to La Roca (The Rock), a 150-person maximum security prison that is part of the same complex.

Prosecutors say that the four Ecuadorians arrested Friday provided “logistical assistance” to the seven Colombians charged with assassinating presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio.

A spokesman for the Attorney General’s office said the Ecuadorians provided information about Villavicencio’s campaign schedule and his movements in and out of the school where he held his last campaign rally, and where he was murdered.

“As the investigation proceeds, we expect more arrests,” the spokesman said. He said that the investigation is a joint operation of Ecuadorian, Colombian and United States law enforcement agencies.

The spokesman confirmed that “at least four” cell phones were seized during the arrests and said call records and recordings are providing a “large number of leads” for the investigation. He did not, however, confirm media reports that the phones reveal communication between the killers and Ecuadorian politicians.

Colombian authorities confirmed that the six surviving murder suspects all have criminal records in Colombia. The seventh suspect was killed Wednesday following a shoot-out with police.

Sources: BBC News, Cuenca High Life, El Comercio, El Universo.
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