Ecuadorian women took to the streets during the weekend to protest against the 206 femicides already recorded in the country during 2022 in the aftermath of María Belén Bernal's murder.
The 34-year-old lawyer went to visit her partner on Sept. 11 at the Police Academy in Quito and was not heard from for days, until her body was found in a nearby bush. The man, a police lieutenant, is still at large.
The demonstrators carried signs with slogans such as Look at me well because I could be next and We are the heart of those who no longer beat.
After sacking two police generals as well as Interior Minister Patricio Carrillo, President Guillermo Lasso announced the creation of a gender-violence unit in each state agency and pledged to up the budget for the enforcement of the Law for the Eradication of Violence against Women.
In Ecuador, 206 femicides have been registered so far in 2022, according to the Aldea Foundation, which maps gender violence. The Attorney General's Office reports that since 2014 there have been 573 femicides, a crime punishable by up to 26 years in prison. Many police officers are suspected to be involved in the cover-up of the Bernal case, in which the main suspect is Bernal's husband, Lieutenant Germán Cáceres.
Protesters also spoke of a femicidal state during the rally in Quito where the police headquarters was attacked with eggs and red and yellow paint while a sign reading Murderous Police was also placed.
According to organizations monitoring gender violence, 65% of Ecuador's women aged between 15 and 49 have experienced some form of violence.