Ecuador tourism marketing director Cristina Rivadeneira resigned Thursday after she told the German press agency that the two Argentine women murdered in Montañita late last month may have been partly responsible for their own deaths.
The tourism ministry repudiated the comments, calling them “insensitive and callous.”
Rivadeneira was representing Ecuador at the International Tourism Exchange in Berlin when she was asked about the murders. “It could have happened anywhere in the world and it was unfortunate that it happened in Ecuador,” Rivadeneira said. “These young women were hitch-hiking, a very dangerous behavior, and the murders were likely to happen sooner or later no matter where they were.”
In addition, Rivadeneira said that the “back-packer” tourist scene in Montañita represents less than one percent of Ecuador’s tourist industry and that tourists and tourism agencies should consider the crimes in context.
Following the Ecuadorian government´s rejection of the comments and complaints from the families of the victims, Rivadeneira broadcast her resignation message on Twitter.
Police say that the Argentine tourists, Maria Jose Coni and Marina Menegazzo, were murdered February 22 or 23 outside of Montañita and that their bodies were discovered six days later.
Two suspects have been arrested and jailed but the families of the victims question details of the investigation. Within the past week, new evidence in the case and the denial of guilt by one of suspects, have cast more doubts on the initial investigation. A forensics team from Argentina is in Ecuador doing its own investigation.