Ecuadorians to elect new president amid surging violence

Ecuadorians to elect new president amid surging violence

More than 13M eligible to vote in country plagued by violence, corruption and insecurity

By Laura Gamba

BOGOTA, Colombia (AA) - Voters in Ecuador headed to polls on Sunday for ​​early presidential election amid unprecedented violence, including the assassination of a candidate.

The atypical election was called after Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso dissolved the National Assembly by decree in May to avoid being impeached over allegations that he failed to intervene to end a corrupt scheme.

More than 13 million Ecuadorians are eligible to cast ballots to elect the president, vice president and members of the National Assembly. Voting is mandatory for those aged between 18 and 64.

Fernando Villavicencio, killed on Aug. 9 was outspoken about the links between organized crime and government officials in the South American country. Mexican and Colombian drug cartels have infiltrated local gangs in Ecuador as they fight for control of the lucrative drug trade.

Frontrunners include ex-lawmaker Luisa Gonzalez, an ally of exiled former President Rafael Correa who was found guilty of corruption and sentenced in absentia to eight years in prison in 2020.

Behind Gonzalez, millionaire Jan Topic and businessman Otto Sonnenholzner have promised to be tough on crime.

Yaku Perez, an Indigenous man promising to defend the environment and water from mining and oil extraction, has also been in the top five of the eight candidates in recent polls.

Authorities have deployed more than 100,000 police and troops, and have assured people can leave their homes to vote.

The election winner will only govern 18 months. If none of the candidates manage to reach 51% of the votes, a second electoral round would be held on Oct. 15.

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