An Ecuadorian prosecutor who was spearheading the investigation into the on-air armed attack on a TV station last week has been shot and killed, the country’s attorney general confirmed.
César Suárez, who handled cases involving organized transnational crime in Guayas province, was fatally shot in the port city of Guayaquil, Ecuador Attorney General Diana Salazar said.
“I am going to be emphatic – the organized crime groups, the criminals, the terrorists, will not hold back our commitment to Ecuadorian society,” Salazar said in a video statement on Wednesday. “We will continue with more force and commitment. We have to make it clear that this atrocity won’t send a message in contrast to the work that we’re accomplishing toward justice in Ecuador. We’re making a call to the forces of order to ensure the security of those carrying out their duties.”
“It is impossible not to be broken by the death of a colleague in the fight against organized crime. We will remain firm in his name: for him, for the country, for justice. Thank you for your work, César. Rest in peace. My solidarity with his family and friends,” Salazar wrote in a post on X.
General Commander of the National Police of Ecuador Augusto Zapata Correa announced on Thursday morning that two suspects had been arrested in connection to Suárez’s death. In a post on X, Correa shared photos blurring the faces of the two men in custody, as well as weapons and clothing also seized.
The commander said a rifle, two pistols, feeders and two vehicles found during the investigation allegedly link the suspects to the prosecutor’s slaying.
Local reports said Suárez was shot and killed while driving near his office.
The day before he was killed, Suárez told the newspaper El Universo that he had not been granted police protection despite interrogating the 13 people arrested in connection to the shocking attack on the TC television station in Guayas last week, when masked men burst into the studio during a live broadcast and threatened journalists at gunpoint, the BBC reported.
Journalist Jose Luis Calderon was seen pleading with the assailants, while station employees were ordered to sit or lie on the studio floor.
TC’s deputy director of news said afterward that one cameraman was shot in the leg and another’s arm was broken during the incident.
The live broadcaster assault led President Daniel Noboa to declare that Ecuador is in an “internal armed conflict” amid a surge of killings and other crimes tied to drug trafficking.
Suárez was also in charge of the Metastasis case involving an Ecuadorian drug lord who allegedly received favorable treatment from judges, prosecutors, police officers and high officials.
Ecuador has been rocked by a series of attacks, including the abductions of several police officers, in the wake of a notorious gang leader’s apparent weekend escape from prison.
José Adolfo Macías Villamar, leader of Los Choneros, one of the Ecuadorian gangs considered responsible for a spike in car bombings, kidnappings and slayings, was discovered missing from his prison cell where he was serving a sentence for drug trafficking.
His disappearance earlier this month led the government to declare a state of emergency that involved sending the military into prisons, which sparked a wave of at least 30 attacks around the South American country, including the assault at the television station in Guayaquil.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.