New charges in 13-year-old murder case of Air Force commander could follow report from forensics expert

Jul 13, 2023 | 13 comments

Former Ecuador Air Force Commander General Jorge Gabela was murdered in December 2010 for his opposition to the government’s purchase of seven Indian-made helicopters. This is one of the conclusions of a report delivered Tuesday by Argentinian forensics expert Roberto Meza.

The widow of Air Force General Jorge Gabela, Patricia Ochoa (center), receives the report Tuesday night that names the murderers of her husband.

The report, which is the recreation of one delivered to former president Rafael Correa in 2013 and subsequently lost, names two other Air Force generals who Meza claims masterminded the murder. Based on the evidence, Meza says the murderers received bribes from the helicopter manufacturer.

According to the attorney for Gabela’s widow, Patricia Ochoa, murder and collusion new charges will be filed within days with the Attorney General’s office. “This is a state crime since it involved active military personnel and a cover-up by members of the government,” says Ramiro Román, who has represented Ochoa for nine years. “The fact that we may at last see justice done is a great relief for the general’s wife.”

Meza names retired generals Rodrigo Bohorquez and Alfonso Espinosa as the “intellectual authors” of the murder, claiming they hired hitmen to kill Gabela for his opposition to the purchase of the Dhruv helicopters. Gabela publicly claimed that the aircraft were “unsuitable for use in Ecuador’s varied terrain” and that they had unresolved safety issues.

Following his murder, Gabela was proven right when four of the seven helicopters crashed, killing three and injuring several others.

Four of the seven Dhruv helicopters crashed, validating the concerns of Air Force General Jorge Gabela. The remaining three aircraft are in storage in Guayaquil and have not been flown since the last accident.

According to Román, at least one of the two generals accused in the murder is still alive, based on 2021 voting records. Román did not say who in the Correa administration was involved in the alleged cover-up of technical problems with the helicopters and later, knowledge of the murders.”

In his report, Meza says that early claims that the Gabela’s murder was the act of “common criminals” who broke into the general’s Samborondón home were not true. “The evidence is overwhelming that this was a hired hit and this was known from the beginning, even by the president,” Román says. “The government was eager to avoid a scandal and the lie about the motive was widely circulated by officials to divert the truth.”

Román adds that the evidence does not directly implicate Correa. “The Defense Minister and members of the presidential staff knew much more about the case and should be held responsible. The president understood the problems with helicopters and, later, that Gabela’s murder was probably an inside job involving his objections to the purchase.”

Following release of the new report, Ochoa thanked Meza and said she hoped the guilty will be brought to trial. “For now, I am thankful for all his work to overcome the lies and misinformation. Even if justice is not done, the truth is finally known.”

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