El Alto, Bolivia, Jan 31 (EFE).- Hundreds of women’s rights activists demonstrated Monday alongside the kin of victims of femicides (gender-related killings of women and girls) to denounce those crimes and demand an end to corruption in Bolivia’s judicial system.
The march from this highland city to the doors of La Paz’s Departmental Court of Justice of La Paz was spurred by the arrest last week of Richard Choque Flores, a serial abuser of women who was released by a judge in 2019 despite having been sentenced six years earlier to 30 years behind bars.
At the time of his arrest, authorities found the bodies of two of his alleged victims.
The demonstrators gathered outside Choque Flores’ home in El Alto at 9 am and walked 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) to downtown La Paz while carrying signs denouncing judicial authorities and paying tribute to several victims of gender-based violence.
“I need justice,” said Timoteo Ramirez, the father of a young woman, Lucy, who went missing in May 2021 and whose body was one of the two found at Choque Flores’ home.
Choque Flores allegedly used a fake profile on social media to lure his victims – mainly young, economically vulnerable women – by offering them money for sex.
He then allegedly planted phony drug packages at the arranged meeting place, arrived there dressed as a police officer and threatened to arrest his victims unless they submitted to his sexual demands.
A judge had released Choque Flores to house arrest in 2019 on the grounds that he had an incurable illness and had demonstrated good behavior in prison.
“If they hadn’t let him out, this never would’ve happened,” Marina Mamani, Lucy’s aunt, told Efe.
“Prison for that bastard is a reward,” Carlos, who identified himself as a cousin of one of Choque Flores’ victims, told Efe. “We want justice. Whoever falls, falls.”
The judge responsible for the felon’s release, identified as Rafael A., is to be held in preventive detention for six months for alleged malfeasance. Police also announced the arrest of one of Choque Flores’ accomplices, who also had been convicted and granted early release.
Last week, a group of angry local residents set fire to the home where Choque Flores lived with his mother and another relative and where, according to authorities, other dead bodies may be located.
Authorities say 77 women suffered abuse and extortion at his hands.
Bolivia’s leftist government for its part pledged to use the full force of the law to get to the bottom of the emotionally charged case.
President Luis Arce’s administration, which declared 2022 the Year of the Cultural Revolution for Depatriarchalization, said it is seeking structural solutions to bring a halt the scourge of violence against women in Bolivia, whose rates of femicides per 100,000 women – according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean – are among the highest in the Americas. EFE