The body of missing Maria Belen Bernal was found in Ecuador

The body of missing Maria Belen Bernal was found in Ecuador
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Early September morning. On the 11th, the 34-year-old defender entered the police academy in the capital of Ecuador and met her husband, a lieutenant who trains officers. On the way, he carried the hamburger he had bought for her from the restaurant.

It was the last time Maria Belen Bernal was seen alive.

On Wednesday, investigators searching for Bernal found human remains on the slope of an extinct volcano near the academy. President Guillermo Lasso confirmed they were his.

“It is with deep pain and anger that I regret to announce that Maria Belé has been found,” Lasso tweeted on Wednesday afternoon. His murder of a woman will not go unpunished and all the culprits will be brought to justice.”

Bernal’s husband, a police lieutenant. German Cáceres, who was questioned by authorities last week, also disappeared after being released. The judge ordered him to appear in court on Friday to “frame the charges.” Interpol has issued an alert to find out his whereabouts.

Wednesday morning’s discovery of the remains at the Casitagua volcano, located 20 minutes from the police academy, marked a shocking twist in a case that has gripped the South American nation, dominated local news, sparked protests in many cities and fueled anger at escalating violence. against women.

Activists say the fact that Bernal disappeared from the police academy and that the prime suspect is an officer in charge of training cadets is particularly troubling during what they describe as Ecuador’s deadliest year on record for women. At least 206 women have been killed for reasons related to their gender since January, compared to 197 in 2021, according to the Latin American Alternative Development Association.

Michelle Medina, a spokeswoman for Ecuador’s Committee Against Violence, Disappearances and Crimes Against Women, said the anger over Bernal’s case captured growing frustration with a police force seen by many as corrupt and complicit in rising crime.

“They no longer represent an order to protect, but an order to destroy people,” Medina said. “They are cops who hire hitmen, robbers, drug dealers.”

Bernal is believed to have entered the police academy around 1:30 a.m. on Sept. 11, Sunday. It was unclear why he was allowed to enter the academy as a civilian and at that hour.

One cadet would report hearing what sounded like female screams coming from Cáceres’ screams. according to the cadet’s lawyer, the room. An academy official will tell the authorities what he saw according to Gonzalo Realpe, lawyer of cadet Joselyn Sánchez, and Jesús López Cedeno, lawyer of Bernal’s family, red liquid in the hands of her husband. Both lawyers said that they are familiar with the case materials.

Nobody stopped Cáceres left or re-entered the academy on the outskirts of Quito that day.

“The responsibility lies with the state,” Bernal’s mother, Elizabeth Otavalo, 54, told The Washington Post this week before his remains were found.

Edison Burbano, a lawyer representing Cáceres, cautioned that “so far there are only a number of possibilities regarding the lieutenant.”

“The fact that they found the body is a positive thing because it eases the pain of the family. “If Mr. Cáceres has any liability to be determined under the law.

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Burbano said Caceres turned over his cell phone to prosecutors during questioning last week. They kept him for eight hours. “Since then, I have no information about his whereabouts,” the lawyer said. “We haven’t talked.”

Bernal’s family lawyer, López Cedeno, said investigators searched Cáceres’ room and found red stains. They are awaiting DNA test results.

Prosecutors on Friday retained cadet Joselyn Sanchez.

His lawyer, Realpe, said that Cáceres and Sánchez were at a party together and “had a few drinks”. He admitted they had exchanged messages, which have since been deleted, but said they were “about their romance, their love. It has nothing to do with the crime of femicide.”

“It seems that my client was with the lieutenant’s wife when he arrived,” Realpe said. In order not to have problems, he hides it in another bedroom and locks himself in his room with his wife.”

“My client heard screams and beatings from the room next door. But there were many who heard the same thing.”

Fausto Salinas, Ecuador’s chief of police, said on Monday that 12 military personnel had been suspended pending an investigation.

Interior Minister Patricio Carrillo said the case brought “shame” to the country’s uniformed officers. He replaced the director of the police academy with a female colonel. Irani Ramirez

Lasso offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to Cáceres’ location. I raised this issue in front of the UN General Assembly in New York on Wednesday.

“I want to use this forum to fight together against gender violence,” she said. “The disappearance of a brave woman, a lawyer, a mother and a daughter in the case of Ecuador should be a symbol of this call to fight violence against women.”

Bernal’s mother, Otavalo, said she never had reason to worry about her daughter’s relationship with her husband. Bernal and Cáceres started living together six years ago and got married about four years ago. Bernal has a 12-year-old son from a previous relationship. The boy created a Twitter account last week and posted a photo of Caceres.

“Good night everyone, help me find my mom,” said the boy he tweeted, “the last person with him was my stepfather German Cáceres.” As of Wednesday, it had been retweeted more than 12,900 times.

Around 2:00 p.m. on September 12, Bernal’s mother said, she called Caceres asking if he had seen her daughter. I said he had hailed a taxi the previous night off the main highway in Quito.

“I asked him, did you take photos of the taxi?” and he said no,” Otavalo said. “It’s an expressway that taxis go through.”

Otavalo said he called Caceres report missing.

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Cáceres’ lawyer, Burbano, said Cáceres visited his office on a September morning. 13 and told him that his wife was missing. According to Burbano, Caceres told prosecutors that his wife was with him, that they were fighting, and that they left the police academy in his car and continued the fight.

To prevent the fight from escalating, Burbano stopped the car, Cáceres told prosecutors. Bernal decided to get on the freeway and hail a cab, Caceres said. Lieutenant said he never saw her again.

Burbano said Caceres insisted he turn over his phone and cooperate with authorities in the search for his wife.

After being interrogated in September, López Cedeno said that on the 14th, Cáceres got on his motorcycle and drove away. It has not been seen since.

Interior Minister Carrillo vowed to arrest Caceres. Interpol gave last week A Blue Notice is a request for international assistance to collect “information about the identity, location or criminal activity of a person.”

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“We have search teams on the perpetrator and we are not going to let him go,” Carrillo said. “Under every stone, wherever in the world, we will find him and bring him to justice.”

Otavalo asked the prosecutor’s office to seek help from authorities in Colombia or another country to ensure the investigation is impartial.

Carrillo said the “crime was not planned.”

“He left a lot of clues,” Ecuavisa told Noticias.

Lolo Miño, executive director of the Ecuadorian Center for Rights and Justice Observatory, said he had never seen such outrage over a case of suspected gender-based violence. He said Bernal’s death was shocking not only because it happened at the police academy, but also because he was a criminal defense attorney.

“Even with that profile,” Miño said, “he couldn’t avoid violence.”

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