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Ecuador's youngest mayor found shot to death alongside staffer

QUITO (Reuters) -Ecuador's youngest mayor, Brigitte Garcia, and a staffer were found shot dead in a car early on Sunday, said police in the South American country, which is in the grips of a wave of violence that authorities blame on drug trafficking

National police said they were investigating the deaths of Garcia, the 27-year-old mayor of San Vicente, and Jairo Loor, her communications director, after the discovery of their bodies in the province of Manabi. Both had suffered gunshot wounds, police said in a statement.

Later on Sunday, police said that the gunfire had come from within the car, which was rented, and they were tracking the vehicle's GPS system.

Garcia belonged to former President Rafael Correa's Citizen Revolution Movement party.

Correa and Luisa Gonzalez, the party's presidential candidate in the recent elections, called Garcia's killing an assassination on social media platform X.

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

"I have no words, in shock, nobody is safe in Ecuador NOBODY."

Garcia is the latest political figure in the country to be killed following the assassination of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio last August. Villavicencio, a vocal critic of corruption and organized crime, was killed while leaving a campaign event two weeks before the election.

President Daniel Noboa declared a state of emergency in January amid a spike in violence that saw armed men invade a TV station during a live broadcast. Noboa also designated 22 criminal groups as terrorist organizations.

The state of emergency was extended earlier this month.

In a statement, Noboa's government condemned the killings and said it was working with police and the prosecutor's office to ensure a fast investigation.

The government said it would also reinforce public order policies until it achieved safety and peace for all Ecuadorians.

(Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Writing by Alexander Villegas; Editing by Paul Simao and Sandra Maler)