10 Years After Fatal Police Operation, Ecuadorian Court Reopens the ‘Fybeca Case’

Ten years after a police operation in a Guayaquil pharmacy left three missing and eight dead – two civilians and six suspected assailants – the case remains unsolved.

On the morning of November 19, 2003, suspected assailants and police agents forming part of the Grupo Especial Antidelincuencial group (a grupo [es] operating outside of the law which was dismantled after the incident) clashed at a branch of the pharmacy Fybeca. Pistols, machine guns and even grenades were found at the scene.

Student Fernando Monro (@FernandoMONRO) shared a photo which was published throughout the country's media channels following the incident.

This is what the Fybeca pharmacy looked like ten years ago [Fybeca Case]

In December of 2003, a police court trial began against the 20 police officers who participated in the operation. On April 27, 2004, the officers were declared innocent due to lack of evidence and the trial brought to a close.

Almost eight years later on January 17, 2012 [es], the Comisión de la Verdad y Derechos Humanos de la Ficalía [es] [Commission of Truth and Human Rights Watch of the Attorney General] reopened investigations into that morning's events. Seventy testimonies were gathered during the inquiries of people present at the incident, including victims’ family members, witnesses, employees and police officers.

On November 14, 2013, the Attorney General Galo Chiriboga appeared [es] before the National Court of Justice to file charges against 31 people [es] for the presumed crime of extrajudicial execution, carrying a sentence of 16-25 years prison. El Universo [es] reports that police officers and “three lawyers who in 2003 were judges in the police court. One of whom currently performs duties as district attorney,” are among the 31 accused.

[Fybeca Case]The District Attorney's Office will file charges for the serious presumed violation of human rights demonstrated by an extrajudicial execution.

Jorge Blum, a National Court of Justice judge, accepted the request [es] made by district attorney Galo Chiriboga and remanded [es] 20 of the 31 accused in custody.

Meanwhile, in Twitter there are many messages of support for victims and their families as well as several displays of happiness that the case now seems to be advancing. However, many stress that the process has been slow and that there is still a lot of ground to be covered.

Eduardo Delgado (@eddepi) tweeted:

Fybeca Case: it goes to show that in this country the law is now being applied, no more impunity nor abuse from the authorities…

On the other hand, Segundo Veloz (@Veloz2002) wrote, outraged:

They want to block out the sun with a finger [A Spanish expression similar to “put out a fire with a thimble of water”]. The Fybeca Case was always a true investigative disgrace, and the worst is that the guilty are never anywhere to be seen.

Vivian Assange (@VivianAssange) emphasised:

10 years have passed since one of the worst forced disappearance cases in Ecuador! 10 years since the Fybeca Case – we don't want to return to that country!

CarlosLucio (@CarlosFLucioR), for his part, wrote a message of solidarity:

Today marks 10 years since the cold-blooded massacre in the Fybeca de la Alborada [referring to its address]. God keep the innocent who died in his Glory.

In the same way, Rodolfo de la Roca [es] wrote a message of support for the widows on his Facebook status [es].

Es una pena lo sucedido con el CASO FYBECA esta clarito lo que paso allí … tuve la oportunidad de conocer a una de las viudas. Es una de las tantas perlas de nuestra policía.

It's a shame what happened with the FYBECA CASE, it's all too clear what happened there…I had the opportunity to meet one of the widows. This is one of the many charming factors of our police force.

The families of the victims of the Fybeca pharmacy incident have fought for years to clarify the facts of the case. In fact, as they share the same first name, three of the widows are known as “the three Dolores,” [a nickname with the added element that, in Spanish, “dolor” means aches or pains]. Dolores Briones’ husband was the pharmacy's courier and died that day alongside Dolores Vélez's husband, who was in the store shopping for diapers. Dolores Guerra's husband is one of three people missing after being detained by the police.

“The three Dolores” have made a formal complaint to the Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos [Inter-American Commission on Human Rights] and demonstrate each year [es] outside the pharmacy, calling for justice.

Ten years after the incident, thanks to the Attorney General's request, “the three Dolores” again have hope to continue fighting for the state to respond to the events of that day.

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