The assassination was confirmed by Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso, who called a Security Cabinet Meeting in response.
Video of the shooting posted online shows the 59-year-old former journalist being escorted outside a high school into a white pickup truck. As he enters the vehicle, around a dozen gun shots are heard in footage that has not been verified by UPI.
Carlos Figueroa, a close friend of Villavicencio and present during the shooting, said in a video posted online that was reported on by local TV network Ecuavisa that Villavicencio was shot in the head three times.
“Outraged and shocked by the assassination of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio,” Lasso said in a statement. “For his memory and for his fight, I assure you that this crime will not go unpunished.”
The president seemingly placed blame for the shooting on “organized crime,” stating “the full weight of the law is going to fall on them.”
A suspect badly injured during a shootout with police was apprehended, but died from his injuries, the attorney general’s office said in a statement published to X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
“An ambulance from the fire department confirmed his death,” the statement said. “Police proceeds with the removal of the cadaver.”
At least nine people have been reported injured in the attack, including a National Assembly candidate and two police officers, the attorney general’s office said, adding the shooting was under investigation.
Villavicencio, president of the center-right Movimiento Construye party, was assassinated less than two weeks before the general election scheduled for Aug. 20.
His death also comes amid a swath of political violence that has rocked the country.