Fallout from police academy murder continues as some call it a ‘state crime’; Iza cleared in roadblock case; Guayaquil to require motorcycle helmet decals
Despite the dismissal of the Interior Minister, two police commanders and at least 10 officials at the Quito police academy where attorney María Belén Bernal was murdered Sept 12, it remains unclear how the government plans to reorganize the National Police.
Following his firing of Interior Minister Patricio Carrillo, whose ministry manages the police, President Guillermo Lasso said there would be “top-to-bottom changes” to police command and operating procedures. “The tragic death of María Belén proves that the police have failed us as an institution and that the fault lies not only with top management but at all levels of the operation. We must purge the institution not only of procedural violations that contributed to this murder but rid it of the rot of corruption and all illegal actions.”
On Sunday, Lasso appointed Emergency Operations chief Juan Zapata to replace Carrillo. Zapta is a familiar face to most Ecuadorians, having directed the committee that manged the country’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In addition to sacking Carrillo and other police personnel, Lasso has also asked for resignation letters from Police General Fausto Salinas and all regional police commanders. “I will not act immediately on these but I need the option of accepting them as the investigation proceeds.”
On Sunday, Lasso ordered Salinas to arrest German Cáceres, Bernal’s husband and alleged murderer, within eight days. Last week, a prosecutor on the case said he believed Cáceres has fled to Colombia.
Bernal’s mother Elizabeth Otavalo and her attorneys filed a complaint with the Attorney General’s office Monday demanding that the murder be investigated as a state crime. “My daughter was murdered in a public facility by a public employee and I hold the government responsible, beginning with the president,” she said.
Over the weekend, more details of the murder were released, indicating a cover-up by management at the academy. Appearing on Sunday television and radio programs, two investigators said that several instructors and students at the academy heard Bernal’s screams as she was being attacked. “When two students said they were going into the office where Cáceres was killing Bernal, they were told by their superiors it was a private matter between husband and wife and not to interfere.”
Iza cleared in roadblock case
Conaie President Leonidas Iza was been cleared of charges of obstructing a public service on Monday by Latacunga Judge Paola Bedón. Iza was arrested at a roadblock on the Pan America highway near Pastocalle on June 14, during the 18-day indigenous strike.
According to Bedón, National Police had been monitoring Iza’s movements during the strike, looking for a reason to arrest him. The judge said the police activity was a violation of police protocol and amounted to “entrapment.”
“Because of the deviation from standard law enforcement procedure during the stirke, the arrest was not justified and the subject was illegally detained,” Bedón said in her ruling.
Motorcycle riders in Guayaquil must wear license decal on their helmets
Motorcycle drivers and passengers in Guayaquil will be required to wear a decal on their helmets displaying a license number, beginning Oct. 1. The Guayaquil municipal council said the measure is intended to reduce the number of crimes involving motorcycles. According to sponsors of the requirement, 40% of murders and 30% of robberies in the city are committed by operators and passengers on motorcycles.
Drivers and passengers not displaying the decal will be fined $85, or 20% of the basic minimum salary.