Devastated mothers after unresolved femicides in Ecuador

They forcefully chant the name of their daughters in the midst of the feminist protests and shout slogans such as “Not one less!” to demand speed from the saturated judicial system.

According to the Prosecutor’s Office, so far in 2022, 70 women have been victims of femicide but feminist organizations maintain that until November there were 276 cases in the country of 18 million inhabitants.

Latin America registered 4,473 femicides in 2021, with the highest rates in Honduras (4.6), the Dominican Republic (2.7) and El Salvador (2.4) per 100,000 inhabitants, according to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. .

“For María Belén, nobody gets tired,” Elizabeth Otavalo (54 years old), a public administrator who has her daughter’s face stamped on a white T-shirt, repeats like a mantra.

For ten days he searched for María Belén (34) without success until the authorities found her body with signs of violence on a hill a few kilometers from the Higher Police School, where she had been last seen.

His son-in-law, a lieutenant of the institution, is the main suspect in the murder that occurred on September 11 in Quito. Two more uniformed officers are linked to the investigation.

“I am fighting against a monster that is the State (…) because the institutions that are there to protect our rights neither accompany nor help,” laments Otavalo.

The death of lawyer María Belén sparked protests in Ecuador, where the femicide rate is 0.8 per 100,000 inhabitants.

Otavalo denounces solidarity “of the body” of the Police to cover up the crime.

“There were many involved. Who removed my daughter’s body, who did that barbaric thing?” asks the mother in charge of an orphaned grandson.

The families of the victims, apart from the mourning, must “bear an indolent State,” he complains.

At a gas station in the south of Quito, where she last saw her 18-year-old daughter, Juliana Campoverde, Elizabeth Rodríguez (48) does the math.

“I’ve been in total suffering for ten years, five months and eight days. They stole my peace” on July 7, 2012, she says in a broken voice next to a plaque she made in memory of her murdered daughter.

With no trace of the body, Rodríguez recorded a promise there: “I will look for you until my last breath.”

The pastor of an evangelical church the family attended was sentenced to 25 years in prison for Juliana’s kidnapping and death. In his confession he said he had thrown her body into a ravine after an alleged accident.

“It is incomplete justice. Without Juliana being returned to me, it is not justice,” she claims, hugging a photo of the young woman.

The case went through eleven prosecutors, until a gender specialist gathered enough evidence to convict Carrillo. In a lengthy plot of harassment prior to the crime, the pastor demanded that Juliana marry her brother, among other abuses.

In Ecuador there are 39 judicial units and 112 exclusive judges for cases of violence against women, but “the size of the demand exceeds all efforts,” according to the Council of the Judiciary.

Ruth Montenegro (47) returned the duel song. Her daughter Valentina Cosíos, flutist and ballet dancer, was murdered six years ago at her school, when she was barely 11 years old.

“When they took you, Valentina, from my side, those who murdered you, I swore (…) to radicalize my fight and you then became my sweet rebellion,” hums the mother with a delicate voice in singing and vehement in protests .

A group of children found the corpse in the middle of children’s games. At first the authorities treated the case as an accident and then as a suicide.

Two autopsies and an exhumation determined that there was sexual violence and she was suffocated. But it was too late to look for a culprit, Montenegro explains in a central park in Quito where he used to fly kites with Valentina.

“Our stories have a backbone, a common thread, and it is impunity. (…) That our stories end (investigated) as suicides or accidents is the result of the naturalization of violence,” he points out and calls for sanctions against teachers and school authorities for manslaughter.

The mother carries books and Valentina’s ballet outfit in her backpack. Her fight is against impunity but also against oblivion.

“The justice of memory is fundamental (…) to remind society of what should not happen again,” he maintains.