A powerful march of feminist groups and citizens of Ecuador arrived this Wednesday at the General Police Command in Quito to protest the alleged atrocious femicide of the lawyer Maria Belen Bernalwhose remains were found near a training school of the institution.
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Hundreds of protesters crowded in front of the headquarters of the Command, in the commercial center of Quito, after walking several blocks from a concentration site to which the mother of the victim had called, Elizabeth Otavalo.
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Shouts like “murderers” and “feminicides” were heard during the protest in which many demonstrators sat on the street near the police headquarters and sang songs against disappearances.
This is what is known so far about the alleged case of femicide that shocked Ecuador.
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The disappearance and the fugitive suspect
Bernal, 34, disappeared on September 11 after went alone to the Higher School of Police, north of Quito, to visit her husband, Germán Cáceresan instructor agent who appears as the main suspect in the crime.
His case, which has shaken the national conscience and has shaken the institution of order, became known after the victim’s mother, Elizabeth Otavalo, denounced that they had not heard from her daughter since September 11.
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The Prosecutor’s Office, after hearing the complaint, took a first statement from Cáceres, but released him after not finding enough clues to order his pre-trial detention.
After that statement, the husband fled and remains a fugitive. Police opened a dismissal proceeding against him for failing to show up for work.
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What is known so far?
According to Bernal’s mother, during the first investigations they found her daughter’s phone, purse, wallet and a slipper “in the High School, under some bleachers, hidden in a bag”.
The lawyer entered the ESP at an unusual time for visits. She did it during the early hours of Sunday, September 11, according to the Police.
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“I was bringing her food (…) that is why the (control) officer authorized her to pass,” explained the police commander, General Fausto Salinas, during the process of searching for the lawyer. He noted that civilians “cannot enter late (at night) except in these exceptional cases.”
Salinas announced in a radio interview that the cause of death of María Belén Bernal was due to strangulation and suffocation. “We know that the event happened in the bedroom and that he (Germán Cáceres) is looking for an alibi to get rid of the body.”
after the disappearance, President Guillermo Lasso ordered the separation from the position of the then director of the ESP. And the government is offering a $20,000 reward to locate Cáceres.
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The Police said that they would not rest until they bring the “murderer to justice, meanwhile disciplinary proceedings are being carried out against those who, by action or omission, failed in their duty and allowed this to happen.”
On her side, the mother of the victim, Elizabeth Otavalo, who went to the Police forensic service to verify the identity of the remains found, asked the Prosecutor’s Office to university specialists are allowed to participate in the research expertise.
In a message to the attorney general, Diana Salazar, the mother requested that she allow “technical assistance to the country’s public and private universities, as well as other organizations in expert investigations, forensic and medical techniques.”
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Protests over the find
The remains of María Belén were found this Wednesday on the Casitagua hill, very close to the Police School.
President Guillermo Lasso, who was in the United States, spoke on Twitter: “With deep pain and indignation, I regret to report that María Belén was found. Her femicide will not go unpunished and all those responsible will be brought to justice.”
Parallel to a press conference in which the Minister of the Interior, Patricio Carrillo, reported on the identification of the remains, Feminist groups went to the Command of the institution to ask that the crime not go unpunished.
The march concluded with a massive sit-in of people in the street where dozens of women placed candles and posters about the disappearance of Bernal, as well as the suspect Cáceres.
Relatives of the victim asked the citizens “not to lower the pressure” on the authorities until this fact is clarified, which many consider a “state crime” and in which the attitudes of the police authorities have been questioned.
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In social networks, the debate also ignited and the discovery of the remains became the main trend in social networks in the country. Comments of “outrage” and “pain” proliferated on the networks, accompanied by images of the protest that lasted until night.
Femicides in Ecuador: one every 28 hours
This case revived the claims of social groups in the face of the high rates of gender-based violence in Ecuador, where According to the Prosecutor’s Office, at least 573 femicides have been registered since 2014.
“We will find Cáceres wherever he is and we will hand him over to justice. I apologize and offer an apology to Elizabeth Otavalo (Bernal’s mother) and her grandson,” Carillo said. “This is a heinous crime that hurts and embarrasses us all; it is unacceptable that a police officer has deprived another person’s life, when the duty of every police officer is to serve and protect citizens,” the police institution said in a statement. .
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Femicide in Ecuador is punishable by up to 26 years in prison. Geraldine Guerra, from Fundación Aldea, which maps femicides in that country, reported that so far in 2022 there have been 206 murders of women.
“This year in Ecuador every 28 hours a woman has been murdered due to femicidal violence,” he said. Official statistics indicate that 65 out of every 100 women between the ages of 15 and 49 have experienced some form of violence in the country.
*With information from EFE and AFP
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