Slain Ecuador candidate’s running mate picked to run for presidency | News

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Andrea Gonzalez to contest the August 20 polls in place of Fernando Villavicencio, his party announced.

The running mate of Ecuador’s assassinated presidential candidate, Fernando Villavicencio, has been named to stand in his place in the August 20 elections, according to their party.

The centrist Construye party said in a statement on Saturday that Andrea Gonzalez will replace the 59-year-old leader, who was shot dead last week after leaving a campaign event in the capital, Quito.

Gonzalez, a 36-year-old environmental activist who has not previously held public office, was selected by Villavicencio to be his running mate in the snap election called by outgoing President Guillermo Lasso.

While ballots have already been printed, by law votes for Villvicencio will automatically transfer to the party candidate.

“The name of the vice presidential candidate will be announced in the next hours and will be chosen among the most trusted of those who have shared the struggles of comrade Fernando Villavicencio,” the party added.

Six suspects – all Colombian nationals whom police accuse of links to criminal groups – have been charged with the murder of Villavicencio, an ex-lawmaker and journalist with a track record of exposing corruption.

All the suspects remain in custody after a judge on Thursday ordered they remain behind bars as the criminal investigation continues.

Authorities on Saturday transferred the leader of a powerful gang accused of threatening Villavicencio before he was assassinated to a maximum-security prison.

Veronica Sarauz, Villavicencio’s widow, told reporters on Saturday she holds the state directly responsible for her husband’s murder.

“The government still has to provide a lot of answers for everything that happened,” she said, after arriving at the news conference with an armed police escort and wearing a bulletproof vest and helmet.

Sarauz criticised the party’s decision to pick Gonzalez as the replacement. She described the party’s decision to tap Gonzalez as “arbitrary”.

The South American nation of some 18 million has seen a rising tide of violence in recent years, including a sharp increase in the murder rate.

Villavicencio had been polling around the middle of the pack in a field of eight candidates prior to his assassination.

Beyond security, employment and migration have emerged as key campaign issues.

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