The International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) has issued an arrest warrant for Germán Cáceres, wanted in the police academy murder of his wife, María Belén Bernal. Cáceres has been a fugitive since September 13, when Bernal was reported missing. It is believed Cáceres fled the country across the Colombian border.
According to investigators, Bernal was murdered at a National Police training school north of Quito following an argument with Cáceres. Her body was found nine days later in a wooded area near the school.
Newly appointed Interior Minister Juan Zapata said it is only a matter of time before Cáceres is captured. “The order for his arrest has been given top priority in the 196 countries where Interpol operates and I predict he will face justice very soon,” Zapata said. “This was a horrible crime that shocked Ecuador and we look forward to a resolution.”
Robbery suspect ‘lynched’ in Ricaurte
A 29-year-old man was detained by an angry crowd Friday in Ricaurte, beaten and his motorcycle set on fire. According to those who captured him, the man and his partner, who escaped on foot, attempted to rob a woman who withdrew money from an ATM machine.
The suspect was rescued and arrested by police following 30 minutes of detention by the crowd.
“We are tired of the crime in the barrio and cannot depend on the police,” said a man who participated in capturing and beating the suspect. “We will continue to take justice into our hands when criminals attack us. If the police and judges don’t punish them, we will.”
In a Saturday statement, a representative of the Cuenca Ombudsman office said he is “extremely concerned” about the rising number of cases of vigilantism. “This is a trend nationwide and indicates a breakdown in our law enforcement system,” he said. “When crowds punish alleged criminals, they sometimes lynch innocent people. Misidentified people have died at the hands of mobs.”
Electric company won’t sign off on Chinese hydro plant
The Electric Corporation of Ecuador (Celec) announced Friday it will not sign off on the massive Coca Codo Sinclair hydro electric plant and will continue legal action against the Chinese contractor, Sinohydro. Celec claims that construction defects, including thousands of cracks in the power generation chambers, must be corrected before it will formally accept the project.
The decision puts Celec, a public company, at odds with the government of President Guillermo Lasso, that wants a quick resolution of the conflict. “Coca Codo has been in operation for years and provides 30% of the country’s electricity,” says National Assemblywoman Ana Belén Cordero, a member of Lasso’s CREO party. “It is time to end the drama, which has put a strain on relations with the Chinese government.”
An unnamed Celec official responded, claiming construction faults will limit the useful lifespan of the plant. “We have invested billions of dollars in the facility and we insist that it function properly. Yes, it produces a large percentage of the country’s power but it can only operate at 50% capacity due to the problems.”
Government critics claim that pressure from Lasso and other officials to sign off on Coca Codo are the result of pressure to please China. “I understand we should be on good terms with the Chinese but this doesn’t mean we should accept inferior quality for infrastructure projects,” says former National Assemblyman Juan Vázquez. “There was the same pressure from the [Rafael] Correa government and now we have it from Lasso. The interests of the country should come before political considerations.”
Rising ‘coyote’ fees slow U.S. migration
According to the Foreign Ministry, the number of Ecuadorians attempting to enter the U.S. without a visa is less than 20% of what it was in 2020. The reason, the Ministry says, are the high fees charged by the human traffickers, so-called coyoteros, who provide escort service to the U.S. border.
“In 2020, the average coyote fee was $12,000 for the trip,” the Ministry said. “Today, it is “$21,000 to $23,000, a price many people cannot afford.” The spokesman added: “Two years ago, there were more Ecuadorians detained at the U.S. border than from any country in South America. Today, most detainees are Venezuelans and very few are Ecuadorians.”
According to the spokesman, the higher coyote fees are the result of a 2021 requirement that Ecuadorians entering Mexico have a visitor visa.