The murder of a lawyer becomes the emblem of violence against women in Ecuador

Quito, (EFE) .- The murder of María Belén Bernal, allegedly strangled in a police station at the hands of her husband, a lieutenant on the run, aims to become one of the most emblematic faces of violence in Ecuador, after causing great alarm in the country due to the circumstances of the case.

The Ecuadorian population woke up Thursday still in shock after the worst suspicions were confirmed in the last few hours, after Bernal disappeared during a visit to her husband, Germán Cáceres, at the Police High School and set off all alarms.

After ten days of intense searches, the 34-year-old lawyer’s remains were found Wednesday in a ravine near the police school in northern Quito, and an autopsy performed later revealed that she was strangled, as detailed on Thursday. the commander general of the National Police, Fausto Salinas.

“We know that an event occurred in the bedroom (of Cáceres inside the police high school),” Salinas explained in statements to the Centro radio station.

“From there (Cáceres) led to the search for an alibi to get rid of guilt. This did not happen because the investigative work, articulated with the Prosecutor’s Office, was very good and, with all the skills and indications, the investigative event is closed ”, said the head of the Ecuadorian police.

Classified as femicide

Family and friends attend the wake of the lawyer María Belén Bernal, at the Theater of the University of Quito (Ecuador). EFE / José Jacome

With Lieutenant Cáceres identified as the main suspect in the murder due to evidence gathered during the investigation, Ecuadorian authorities such as Interior Minister Patricio Carillo did not hesitate to describe the event as a “femicide”.

So, if Cáceres is confirmed as the perpetrator of the murder, Bernal’s death is going to be the most revealing face in the long list of femicides registered in this 2022, which according to feminist organizations amounted to 206 as of last Friday.

After performing the autopsy, the body of María Belén Bernal arrived Wednesday at the Central University Theater of Ecuador, where a burning chapel was installed in front of a disconsolate Elizabeth Otavalo, the victim’s mother, who sought to barely able to calm Bernal’s son, 13.

«Today my daughter is already an angel, but that doesn’t end there. This ends when the offenders have paid their due. My daughter is a victim. She died in the Higher Police School. Therefore, you are a state crime, gentlemen. You cannot go unpunished. My daughter won’t be just another statistic, “Otavalo said.

The coffin was greeted with loud cries of “No less, long life we ​​love each other” and “let femicide fall hard”, in a continuation of Wednesday protests by feminist groups that also point to the police as an accomplice in the de Bernal murder, as it would all take place in a police precinct full of law enforcement officers.

Shout out “no less”

Family and friends attend the wake of the lawyer María Belén Bernal, at the Theater of the University of Quito (Ecuador). EFE / José Jacome

This case has hit the heart of the Ecuadorian police fully, although its most senior staff remain in office with the exception of the high school directors, who have been fired to be replaced by women with the aim of implementing, according to Minister Carrillo, a gendered approach in the police training center curriculum.

At the same time there are a dozen carabinieri to whom a file has been opened for having contributed to the event, by action or by omission, including a cadet who is in temporary prison.

Meanwhile, investigations continue on the case, including operations to find Cáceres, a fugitive since last week, when he issued a first statement to the Prosecutor’s Office and was released without charge.

As part of the proceedings, the Prosecutor’s Office reported this Thursday that during the early morning the houses of the sister of Cáceres, in one of the richest neighborhoods of Quito, were searched, as well as the house where a friend of the accused cadet resides.

Ecuadorian police have also activated an international alert on the possibility that Cáceres, who was an instructor at the Police School, has fled the country, in a search that has a government reward of up to $ 20,000 for those who offer information. where he is.

Web Edition: JuanK Ochoa

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