Watch CBS News

Ecuador's youngest mayor, Brigitte Garcia, and her adviser are found shot to death inside car

Ecuador at war with drug gangs
Ecuador's president says country is at war with drug gangs 03:15

Ecuador's youngest mayor was found shot to death Sunday, police said, as the South American country approaches its third month of a state of emergency decreed by the government to crack down on soaring gang violence.

Brigitte Garcia, the 27-year-old mayor of coastal San Vicente, was found dead along with her adviser, the municipality's communications director, Jairo Loor.

During the early hours of the morning "two people were identified inside a vehicle without vital signs, with gunshot wounds," the Ecuadoran national police said on social media.

Later, it added that the shots "were not fired from the outside of the vehicle but from the inside." Investigators are still analyzing the route taken by the car, which had been rented.

Luisa Gonzalez, the party's presidential candidate in the recent elections, called Garcia's killing an assassination.

"I've just found out they've assassinated our fellow mayor of San Vicente Brigitte Garcia," Gonzalez said in a post.

Brigitte Garcia

One of Garcia's last posts on social media, where she touts herself as the nation's youngest mayor, was about a new project to bring water to her municipality.

"Together, we're building a brighter future for our community," she wrote on Thursday.

In January, President Daniel Noboa imposed a state of emergency and declared the country in "a state of war" against gangs after a wave of violence following the prison escape of "Los Choneros" leader Adolfo "Fito" Macias.

That month, Noboa also gave orders to "neutralize" criminal gangs after gunmen stormed and opened fire in a TV studio and bandits threatened random executions of civilians and security forces.

Since then, the military has been deployed in the streets and taken control of the country's prisons, where a string of gang riots in recent years has left some 460 people killed.

The government claims that its so-called "Phoenix Plan" has been successful at reducing the country's soaring violence.

Security forces have carried out some 165,000 operations, made more than 12,000 arrests, killed 15 people considered "terrorists" and seized some 65 tons of drugs since January, according to official figures.

But several violent episodes were reported over the weekend, including the ambush of an army patrol in Sucumbios, a province on the Colombian border. One soldier was killed and three others wounded in the incident.

In the Andean city of Latacunga, a bomb threat prompted police to evacuate a stadium where a professional soccer championship game was being held.

After an inspection with the help of a trained dog, authorities found a suitcase in the parking lot of the stadium "containing five explosive charges," which were detonated in a controlled manner, according to a police report.

The government said it would reinforce security controls following Garcia's assassination.

Once considered a bastion of peace in Latin America, Ecuador has been plunged into crisis after years of expansion by transnational cartels that use its ports to ship drugs to the United States and Europe.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.