Crime & Justice

Ex-policeman given 34 years in jail for killing wife in case that shook Ecuador

Quito, May 25 (EFE).- An Ecuador court on Thursday sentenced former policeman Germán Cáceres to 34 years and eight months in jail for the femicide of his wife María Belén Bernal.

Lawyer Bernal, 34, became a symbol of gender violence in the country after she was murdered last year inside a police precinct in a case that shook Ecuador.

The magistrates of the Northern Judicial Complex of Quito handed Cáceres the maximum sentence for femicide and ordered compensation of about $260,000 for the Bernal family.

They also acquitted policeman Alfonso Camacho, who had been charged by the Prosecutor’s Office for an alleged crime of omission of help.

The incident occurred on Sep. 11, 2022 at the Higher Police School in the north of Quito where Cáceres killed Bernal and then hid her body before fleeing the country.

After the prosecution completed its final argument on Thursday, the court did not delay, convicting Cáceres soon after.

Following the hearing, Bernal’s mother Elizabeth Otavalo indicated that they will appeal the acquittal of Camacho, although she said she was satisfied with the sentence handed to Cáceres.

“It is the maximum that the norm determines, but this does not give me back my María Belén. I will continue in the streets,” said Otavalo.

“It is a completely hard path without accompaniment from state institutions. What we have accompaniment is from women and human rights groups. It is an indolent state that does not watch over women’s rights. It has never done anything for women. Here we are and they continue to kill us.”

From the beginning, Otavalo described the femicide of her daughter as a state crime for having occurred inside a police headquarters and where Bernal should have been protected.

Bernal family lawyer Jesús López said that the reparation also includes the creation of a medal named after Bernal that will be given “to the best cadet who obtains the first seniority within the Higher Police School.”

Likewise, he urged the National Police to teach the subject of human rights with a gender perspective within the high school curriculum.

An autopsy revealed that Bernal was strangled to death, and the incident is believed to have occurred during an argument with Cáceres inside the police college, where he worked as an instructor.

The ex-policeman, who confessed to the crime once he was arrested, removed his wife’s body from the police station and dumped it on a hill 5 kilometers away.

Bernal remained missing for 10 days, during which time her case drew public attention and nationwide protests.

Meanwhile, Cáceres fled the country and was not captured until more than three months later in Colombia, from where he was immediately expelled and made available to the Ecuadorian authorities.

Bernal was one of the 332 femicides registered in Ecuador in 2022, according to data from the ALDEA Foundation together with the Spotlight Initiative. The year set a record for the most cases since the crime of femicide was criminalized in Ecuador in 2014. EFE


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