Ecuador presidential front-runner dons bulletproof vest amid threats

Presidential election in Ecuador

QUITO (Reuters) - Ecuadorean presidential front-runner Luisa Gonzalez said on Friday she will wear a bulletproof vest while campaigning, following threats against her life and the gunning down of another candidate last month.

She will also accept the government's offer of military protection, her party, Citizen's Revolution, said in a statement.

"I am forced to wear a bulletproof vest and to accept the government's offer to have security provided by the armed forces," Gonzalez said while speaking to voters in Otavalo city, in Imbabura province.

Security conditions in Ecuador have deteriorated in recent years, with soaring murder rates and growing levels of crime. Violence has accelerated during the elections, with candidate Fernando Villavicencio shot to death in Quito on Aug. 10 as he was leaving a campaign event.

The capital was even rocked by two car bombs on Wednesday night in acts of violence that officials said could be linked to disquiet over prisoner transfers between prisons.

Ecuador's attorney general's office has opened an investigation against a citizen who made threats against Gonzalez, the statement said.

"It's unfortunate to have to carry out a political campaign in a situation where a candidate was assassinated and in which today I received threats against my life as I am the candidate with the best chance of becoming president," she said.

Gonzalez, a protege of former President Rafael Correa who has promised to revive his social programs, won 33% support in a first-round election last month.

She will face off against Daniel Noboa, who came second in the first round, in a second vote on Oct. 15.

Outgoing President Guillermo Lasso - who dissolved the legislature and called early elections to avoid an impeachment process - has repeatedly blamed the spiraling violence on drug trafficking gangs operating in the country.

(Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Writing by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Sandra Maler)