Saturday, March 6, 2010

Saturday Night With The Ecuadorian Police

My friend Ben commented to me the other day that in his six months in Ecuador, he had experienced more life than he had during years in the States. I would have to agree. If there has been one constant of my time in Ecuador, it has been new experiences and upheaval.

Last night was no different.

Somehow, in my path to a BBQ, I signed my name to four copies of an official statement regarding the murder of one Francisco Flores Flores, better known as Paco. It's another chapter in a unique story that I'm involved in only tangentially, mainly as a translator. Basically, an Ecuadorian friend of a friend was murdered in what was thought to be a home invasion and robbery, since his car was taken and later found burned on the side of the road.

Not exactly. . .

As more details emerge, it seems that this may have actually been a crime of passion based on a secret lifestyle that was being lived by the deceased. The family didn't know anything about it, although the accused was living with the deceased, but in an odd twist of fate, my gringo friends hosted a party for the Carneval where the number one suspect may have made his appearance. As the only ones who have met the suspect, we needed to come into the police stations to make a formal statement and look at some photos taken from Paco's computer to see if we could ID the suspect.

The police station was nothing like you might expect, even counting terrible TV stereotypes. The inspector was dressed in street clothes, and the waiting lounge had Bend It Like Beckham playing on the TV. There was one uniformed officer at the door, but everyone else seemed as though they had just wandered in wearing whatever. A small child (no idea whose!) slept on a couch behind the main desk.

As the owner of the best Spanish, I got to serve as the translator back and forth between the inspector and my group of Americans. It was a challenge, but also really interesting. We worked together to type up the final statement, and since I helped I had to sign it as the "traductora" before they printed it off on an antique dot matrix Epson. Somewhere there was a copy machine to make the four copies, and someone at the station has Internet savvy since they had accessed Paco's computers for the photos.

The whole process took a little over four hours, from our initial visit to the photo id attempt (no luck, sadly). I was completely exhausted by the end, but it was also fascinating to see how the police system works here to do an investigation on a first hand basis.


  1. This is kinda unsetteling. I'm glad you were able to help, but sad to hear you were witnesses (of sort) to such an awful thing.

  2. This is all fascinating. I hope that you get to see as much of the drama unfold as possible while you're there. Speaking from experiences in depositions, it can really be remarkable how much of an impact a translator can have on evidence acquisition. The nuances of the questions, and of the answers, are often the difference between figuring out what's going on and not. Too often, those little details are omitted from the translator's explanation of the answers of the witness (or of the questions of the examiner). I'm sure that, for the translator, it is extremely tempting to clarify what the question probably meant or what the answer most likely intended to convey, rather than just providing a precise recitation of each. Really interesting stuff. Keep us posted!

  3. It was interesting too because although there was only one official statement being made, I actually was representing a group of party goers who had all met the suspect. I did as well, but I didn't know the deceased as well as the others. However, after talking it over with the investigator for the case, he said that because our statements were likely to be totally similar we would just do the one deposition.

    Another element that was challenging was how to handle the element of homosexuality in the case, especially since the deceased's brother had accompanied us to the station. The family is taking that bit hard (Ecuador is a conservative and very Catholic country) but the Norte Americanos are pretty blase about it. So some nuance to handle there too, while still trying to get the facts across.