By Savannah Hulsey Pointer
The 2024 presidential campaign of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. renewed calls for President Joe Biden to provide protection for the candidate.
Mr. Kennedy’s campaign manager Dennis Kucinich publicly called on President Biden to order Secret Service protection for Mr. Kennedy following the assassination of an Ecuadorian anti-corruption presidential candidate.
Ecuador presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio who recently promised to get rid of corruption and lock up the country’s drug runners, was shot and killed at a political rally in Quito, the capital.
Mr. Villavicencio, 59, was killed on Aug. 9, less than two weeks before a special presidential election. He was known for speaking out against drug gangs, and while he wasn’t a front-runner, his death has caused increased concern about organized crime.
“The killing of Mr. Villavicencio proves how volatile the political climate has become,” Mr. Kucinich said in a press release sent to The Epoch Times. “Yesterday the FBI confronted a man who had threatened President Biden, an incident that led to the man being shot dead by government agents.”
Mr. Kucinich, a 16-year member of Congress, continued, “Mr. Kennedy has met all criteria for protection. The only conceivable reason he is being denied is because of a conscious decision by the White House to deny him security and [expletive] the consequences.”
Previous Calls for Protection
Late last month, Mr. Kennedy alleged the White House had denied his request for Secret Service protection for three months: “Since the assassination of my father in 1968, candidates for president are provided Secret Service protection,” Mr. Kennedy wrote on X, previously known as Twitter. “But not me.”
The Democrat candidate said the Biden administration has turned down his request and said Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas reportedly told his campaign: “I have determined that Secret Service protection for Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is not warranted at this time.”
“Our campaign’s request included a 67-page report from the world’s leading protection firm, detailing unique and well-established security and safety risks aside from commonplace death threats,” said Mr. Kennedy, noting that it was his understanding that the “typical turnaround time for pro forma protection requests” is about two weeks.
According to the United States Secret Service website, the agency does not provide protection to non-incumbent presidential candidates until 120 days before the general election. Mr. Kennedy would be eligible for Secret Service protection in July 2024, per Secret Service guidelines.
Mr. Kennedy’s father, the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, was assassinated in a Los Angeles hotel during the 1968 presidential campaign. Officials have attributed his death to communist sympathizer and pro-Palestinian activist Sirhan Sirhan, but the 2024 presidential candidate has long maintained that he believes other individuals were involved.
Before President William McKinley was assassinated in 1901, Secret Service agents did not protect presidential candidates. After his death, however, the federal agency began protecting sitting presidents. When President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Congress expanded the Secret Service’s responsibilities to include the protection of presidential and vice presidential candidates, according to its website.
Ecuadorian Candidate’s Death
Mr. Villavicencio’s death comes amid a marked increase in violence in Ecuador, fueled by the growing presence of drug cartels in the country, with escalating drug trafficking and violent killings. It’s been a central issue in the presidential campaign.
Last week, Mr. Villavicencio mentioned that a drug trafficking gang leader had threatened him and his crew. The candidate was married and is survived by five children.
“For his memory and his fight, I assure you that this crime will not remain unpunished,” Mr. Lasso wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Aug. 9. “Organized crime has gone very far, but all the weight of the law will fall on them.”
The president of Ecuador stated he would convene a meeting of the nation’s senior security officials.
Mr. Villavicencio, who served as a lawmaker until the dissolution of the Ecuadorian National Assembly in May, was one of eight presidential candidates in the Aug. 20 election. He was the candidate for the Build Ecuador Movement. Opinion polls placed him fifth among the eight candidates, with approximately 7.5 percent support. He was renowned as a candidate against corruption.
Mr. Villavicencio was a union member at the state-owned hydrocarbon company Petroecuador before transitioning into journalism.
He began his journalism career with El Universo, one of the country’s largest daily newspapers, and was known for combating corruption. Throughout his tenure, he uncovered extensive instances of government misconduct. In 2015, he exposed Ecuador’s clandestine operations that spied on journalists and political opponents, including Julian Assange, inside the embassy.
He spoke out against the previous socialist president, Rafael Correa. In one case, Mr. Villavicencio criticized Mr. Correa for making deals with oil companies like Chinese-regime-owned PetroChina that cost Ecuador almost $5 million in overpayments.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Mimi Nguyen Ly contributed to this report.