Helicopter murder mystery: Family of dead general demands new investigation

Jun 19, 2018

The family of Air Force General Jorge Gabela is asking the Council of Participation and Social Control (Cpccs) to form a panel of “high level citizen jurists” to investigate his 2010 murder in Guayaquil.

A Dhruv military helicopter

Gabela, commander of the Ecuadorian Air Force at the time of his death, was an outspoken critic of the government’s plan to purchase Indian-made Dhruv helicopters in 2007 and 2008. He claimed the aircraft were inferior in quality and unsuited for high-altitude flights in Ecuador’s Andean region.

Despite Gabela’s objections, the government went ahead with the purchase of seven Dhruvs and was in negotiation with the manufacturer, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, for more when he was murdered.

The general’s objections were justified following his death as four the helicopters crashed, killing three air force personnel. The remaining helicopters have been grounded for three years and are for sale.

Following an investigation, the government concluded that Gabela’s murder was the work of common thieves, four of whom were arrested. Gabela’s wife Patricia Ochoa claims that the murder was “institutional,” the work of those with a financial or political interest in the purchase of the aircraft. She points out that the investigation showed that no robbery occurred.

Ochoa and Iván Guerrero, Gabela’s brother, met Monday with Cpccs president Julio César Trujillo to make the request for a special investigation. Also attending the meeting and supporting the family’s request, was Roberto Meza, an Argentinian investigator hired by the government in 2011 to report on the murder.

Meza is in Quito to give testimony to federal prosecutors who are also looking into the case. Meza’s 2011 investigation resulted in a report of the murder that has disappeared from government files.

Meza agrees with Ochoa that her husband’s murder was not the work of robbers.

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