MP and presidential hopeful Jaime Ricaurte Hurtado González was shot and killed after he had just walked out of Ecuador’s parliament building following a morning session in February 1999.
The 62-year-old was an Ecuadorian politician of African descent with the Democratic Popular Movement (MPD). An activist and the first Black parliamentarian in Ecuador, González was shot to death while running for president.
At the time of his death, he had uncovered information detailing alleged corruption acts committed by some prominent persons in power. To date, the death of the left-wing MP is believed to be politically motivated, with some even accusing then-president Jamil Mahuad of having a hand in it. None of the assassins was brought to trial as they were all able to get away after the crime — calmly.
The shooting occurred a few steps away from the security service of the building of the Supreme Court and other government buildings well-guarded.
Afro-Latino González had tried to build a better society free of racism and was a strong critic of the government’s economic policies. He knew how his forebears had shattered barriers to demand change, racial justice and freedom through slave rebellions or campaigns that eventually led to independence.
González wanted the best for all after independence, fighting for social and racial equality but that cost him his life.
Born in the abandoned parish of Malimpia in Quinindé around 1937 to poor and illiterate parents Esteban Hurtado and Pastora Gonzalez, he helped his parents do farmwork and clean shoes on the streets while still going to school at just 10 years old.
He became a brilliant student who also did amazingly well in basketball, playing for the state of Esmeraldas and the Province of Guayas. He also won a gold medal in triple jump, javelin and discus throw, 110 meters hurdles and 1,500 meters flat. He later earned a place at the University of Guayaquil, where he was president of the Association School of Law and a candidate for the Presidency of the Federation of University Students of Ecuador.
In 1979, González was elected to Congress for the Movimiento Popular Democrático Party (MPD), helping bring back the national trades union and Students union. Becoming an activist for social and racial equality and criticizing the government on matters of corruption, González decided to run for president in 1998.
The following year, on February 17, 1999, González, his nephew and his bodyguard were shot to death by three unknown gunmen. Some sources state that a second parliamentarian, Pablo Vicente Tapia Farinango, and an assistant, Wellington Borja Nazareno, also died in the attack.
The killings shocked Ecuador. Officials initially accused a group of known criminals, saying those criminals had killed González to prevent him from establishing paramilitary groups in Ecuador.
“But a commission of inquiry set up by the government disputed this version of events and pointed out numerous inconsistencies in the original police report,” Inter-Parliamentary Union IPU wrote in 2014. “It highlighted the lack of a proper inquiry into all possible suspects, and the ‘dubious role’ of some police officers.”
At the time of the IPU’s report, two of the alleged gunmen were facing charges, however, the instigators had not been found. Allegations implicating then-president Mahuad in the murder were made.
González’s party wrote in a statement following the incident: “The Democratic Popular Movement (DPM), the Communist Party Marxist Leninist of Ecuador (CPMLE), the Popular Front and other organizations that make up the organization Popular Unity, express their sorrow and indignation and assure to all members of these organizations, of other popular and leftist organizations and to all freedom fighters all over the world, that the evil and cowardly assassination of our comrades Jaime Hurtado, Pablo Tapia and Wellington Borja, is a new act of state terrorism accomplished by the reactionary forces led by the government presided by Jamil Mahuad.
“This criminal act took place yesterday, Wednesday February 17th 1999, around 13:20 few meters away from the building of the Supreme Court and a block away from the House of the Parliament. A group of unarmed people fired at our comrades. The bullets, caliber 9mm are used only by the organs of state security.
“Despite the fact that the place where our comrades were assassinated is under constant surveillance by the police, and a few steps away stands the security service of the building of the Supreme Court, nothing was done to seize the murderers who managed to run away through traffic jams in a Suzuki Forza.”
“The crime is part of a campaign of the government to frighten anti-government protesters,” the statement added.