Unease Spreads in Ecuador Amid Assassination of Presidential Candidate


Tracking Global Events | August 16, 2023

The August 9 assassination of Ecuadorian presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio shocked the country and raises concerns about the rise of violence and impunity. Villavicencio was a vocal critic of corruption and drug trafficking in Ecuador and had received death threats in the past. The criminal syndicate Los Lobos has claimed responsibility for his assasination. As violence continues to spiral out of control, and the highly-contested presidential elections creep up, Premise launched a survey in Ecuador to measure sentiment on the impact of Villavicencio’s assassination and broader rise in crime and violence.


  • 84% of respondents report feeling fearful or very fearful for their family’s safety. Those in the provinces of Santa Elena and Guayas were most fearful for their safety (see Figure 1).
  • When asked if they think Villavicencio’s assassination will change the way they think about free speech and political participation, 81% said they feel either more (40%) or much more (41%) afraid to speak freely and participate politically.
  • The vast majority of respondents (77%) feel that the organized crime group Los Lobos poses a strong or very strong threat to democracy, while 57% feel the group threatens personal safety.
  • 77% are supportive of the US special investigatory agents sent to help investigate the assassination of Fernando Villavicencio.
Ecuador Elections Regional fear for safety map
Difference in Percentage Points From Milei's Vote in Primary Election
  • Nearly half of respondents reported witnessing crime in their community either daily or weekly.
  • “Fear of violent retribution” and “lack of trust in police” were cited as the main reasons why people don’t report crime.
  • Only 27% of respondents believe that local security forces are properly trained to respond to an emergency.
  • Unsurprisingly, only 4% said they felt that security did enough to protect the late Fernando Villavicencio from external threats.


Between August 10th and 15th Premise launched a convenience sample, a type of nonprobability sampling that is hyper-efficient in dynamic events, involving the sample being drawn from a population ready to assist. Premise received 508 responses across Ecuador.

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