Missing Ecuadorian lawyer found murdered, husband wanted

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According to the prosecutor’s office, at least 573 feminicides have been recorded among a population of 17.7 million inhabitants in Ecuador since 2014 – Copyright AFP SAUL LOEB

A young lawyer has been found murdered in Ecuador 10 days after her disappearance, the government announced on Wednesday, in the latest femicide in a country plagued by violence against women.

The body of 34-year-old Maria Belen Bernal was found on a hill about five kilometers (3.1 miles) from the Quito police training school where she disappeared on September 11 during a visiting her husband there, Interior Minister Patricio Carrillo said. Twitter.

Her husband, Lt. German Caceres, is on the run and is considered the prime suspect in the woman’s death, according to police.

“I deeply regret his death, a femicide that will not go unpunished,” Carrillo said when announcing the discovery of Bernal’s body.

President Guillermo Lasso, also on Twitter, promised that “Bernal’s femicide will not go unpunished and all those responsible will be brought to justice.”

Bernal disappeared after entering the police college to visit her instructor husband, according to her family.

Two days after his disappearance, Caceres also disappeared, prompting a manhunt and his dismissal.

– ‘We are not going to rest’ –

The director of the training school was also fired and the government offered a $20,000 reward for the capture of Caceres.

“We will not rest until we bring the killer to justice,” police said in a statement.

The crime of femicide is punishable by 26 years in prison in Ecuador.

According to the prosecutor’s office, at least 573 femicides have been recorded among Ecuador’s population of 17.7 million since 2014.

In the first months of 2022, there were 206 murders of women, according to Géraldine Guerra of the NGO Aldea, which tracks feminicides in the country.

That was about one woman every 28 hours, she said.

Official data shows that 65 out of every 100 Ecuadorian women between the ages of 15 and 49 have experienced some form of violence.

On Monday, a prosecutor investigating hate crimes and feminicides was himself murdered outside the Ecuadorian prosecutor’s office in Guayaquil, authorities said.

Edgar Escobar was shot outside the building where he worked.

Crime and violence have increased in Ecuador as rival drug gangs spread terror, particularly in Guayaquil and its prison system.

Ecuador sits between Colombia and Peru, the two largest cocaine producers in the world.

In 2021, the murder rate nearly doubled from the previous year to 14 per 100,000 population.

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