Mass protests mark a ‘day of outrage’ following the rape and murder of a University of Cuenca student

Nov 18, 2023 | 0 comments

The streets of Cuenca were filled with angry protesters Friday following the identification of the body of University of Cuenca student Abigail Supliguicha. In protests that continued late into the night, thousands gathered at national and district prosecutor’s headquarters, the provincial court and the Puente Vivas Nos Queremos, the bridge on the Rio Tomebamba below the Hermano Miguel escalinata.

See related article: Man accused of murdering University of Cuenca student found dead at Turi prison.

A crowd estimated at 3,000 marched through Cuenca’s historic district Friday morning protesting the murder of a University of Cuenca student.

On Thursday, Segundo C., a convicted rapists who gained early release from prison for good behavior, led police to Supliguicha’s body near Azogues.

According to investigators, Supliguicha responded to a Facebook ad posted by Segundo C. offering “job finder” services. Her friends say Segundo C. planned to take Supliguicha to an employment interview with a shopping mall manager in Azogues. In the last known photo of her, Supliguicha and Segundo C. appear together in a security camera photo taken October 8 at the Cuenca bus terminal.

Instead of a job interview, investigators say Segundo C. took Supliguicha to a secluded area and raped and murdered her.

Much of Friday’s anger was focused on Ecuador’s legal system. “Why was this rapist and criminal released from his prison sentence? Why was he allowed to continue stalking and attacking women?,” protest leader Diana Costa asked on the steps of the provincial court. “This is like what is happening with the murderers and drug criminals in Guayaquil. The judges let them go, put them back on the streets, so they can kill and terrorizing more people.”

Costa added: “If the legal system of this country worked properly, this sweet, smart woman from the Amazonia, who dreamed of professional career, would still be alive today.”

Protesters at the provincial court blamed the legal system for Supliguicha’s murder.

Another speaker called Friday “a day of outrage,” and claimed the murder confirmed an “official policy” of not taking violence against women and femicide seriously.

Officials and student leaders at the University of Cuenca also blamed the murder on judicial system failure. “The university contacted prosecutors more than a month ago, providing information and photographs, but they did nothing,” said Noelia Ochoa, president of the University of Cuenca student association. “They said they needed to organize an investigation through Quito. And nothing happened.”

According to its press office, an official investigation of Supliguicha disappearance only began after the university posted photos of the alleged kidnapper on social media sites. “This man had been in prison for seven years, he was known to the legal system, and they could not identify him,” a spokeswoman said. “In the end, it was a guard at the prison who saw our posts and recognized the man. Only then did prosecutors begin work on the case.”

A security camera photo of Segundo C. taken at the Cuenca bus terminal on Oct. 8

In February 2014, Segundo C. was sentenced to 11 years and 10 months in prison for the rape of a Quito woman. According to court records, he used the same modus operandi as in Supliguicha’s case, luring the victim with promises of employment services before committing the rape.

He was released for “exemplary behavior” from prison on August 10, 2022, after serving 70% of his term. According to release documents, he was considered a “minimum security risk” based on his prison record and for the fact that he expressed “contrition” for his crime.

According to Segundo C.’s ex-wife, his legal record dates back to 2007, when he was arrested for alleged rapes in Quito. “There was a trial, but they let him go,” she says. “Then, he abandoned the family and continued to rape women.”

Prosecutors confirmed the ex-wife’s account of the arrests and trials.

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