Anahí Cazas / El Alto
“I have lived for 30 years in the Ballivián area (El Alto). I never thought I’d see something like this. For us it was something very strong, it was like a bucket of cold water. We are outraged,” said Miriam Vargas, a member of the neighborhood council where the house of the murderer and rapist, Richard Choque Flores, is located. Since Monday night, she has lost sleep and has not stopped feeling deep pain when she sees the almost daily arrival of moms and dads looking for traces or some information about her missing daughters.
“As a mother and a neighbor, I am very outraged,” Vargas commented and assured that she went from dismay to the decision to do something to ensure that the murderer’s crimes do not go unpunished. For this reason, she, along with the other members of the neighborhood council, organized themselves to take care of the house and manage the arrival of experts from the Prosecutor’s Office and the Police to protect the crime scene and collect evidence.
Days before, in the area, the fury was promoted. On Monday night, hours after the discovery of the two bodies of Lucy and Iris, many neighbors got angry and moved to protest at the femicide’s house. Some threw stones, others kicked the doors, others shouted for the offender’s relatives to leave the house and others set fire to one of the doors of the building.
“On Monday, a mob in the heat of the news, wanted to take over and burn down the house. We, as a neighborhood council, decided to protect (the property) and we are accompanying the prosecutors’ investigation because people want to take over and destroy the house. If that happens, the evidence is destroyed, we are only providing the conditions for the authorities to complete the entire investigation,” said Franklin, another member of the board.
For Vargas, the reaction of the people on Monday night has an explanation. “What happened that the neighbors have seen on the news what has happened and they have been outraged to see that in the house – where the bodies of the two adolescents were found – turn on the light and the television as if nothing had happened. So the neighbors got upset, they burned a tire on the door and the fire spread to one of the rooms,” he said.
“(The relatives of the murderer) have arrived as if nothing had happened, when a crime has been committed there, when it could be a cemetery, we don’t know. The closest neighbors were outraged,” added Vargas. “They lit the tire so that those who were inside the house could leave, but they didn’t want to go out and they threw water and things out the window. People got angrier,” he recounted.
Firefighters and police arrived at the scene. At first, people were angry with the troops, who had to fire tear gas to disperse the protesters. Later, the uniformed officers managed to put out the fire and helped the relatives of the femicide to leave the house.
According to the neighbor, the firefighters controlled the fire and removed piles of clothing and charred objects to the door of the house. “They took out (clothes and objects) so that the fire goes out,” she said.
The house at the crime scene has two floors and a large patio that looks like an abandoned yard. Before the walls of the facade were white, now they are full of posters and graffiti that say: “Castration of rapists”, “Justice for our daughters” and “Death penalty for the rapist and murderer, and jail for the judge (who freed the offender).
In the place, according to several witnesses, Choque’s mother and sister lived. They had almost no interaction with neighbors. “They were not very sociable, they were greeting and nothing more. He didn’t talk to anyone,” said another neighbor.
Many people think that the neighborhood council of the Ballivián area does nothing or they get angry with the leaders for preventing the taking of the house, Franklin assured and indicated that these citizens are totally wrong. “We made (management) for the authorities to come here to do the investigations,” she said.
The other representative from the Ballivián area gives more details. “The neighborhood council has mobilized so that the Prosecutor’s Office and the Police come here, especially for everyone’s safety,” Vargas said. “Our job is to help the investigations so that misbehaved people and people who don’t belong don’t come into the house,” she said, indicating that in this way they take care of the integrity of the neighborhood.
Since Monday night, the neighbors, especially the representatives of the board of directors, take turns to take care of the murderer’s house and make all the arrangements for the authorities to carry out investigations at the scene. “We are protecting the house and we are doing it for the investigations, we want this to be clarified,” Vargas reiterated.
Despite the efforts, it is almost impossible to prevent people from approaching the door of the house and starting to search through the piles of clothes and objects scorched by the fire. “We found promotion rings,” said one woman, as she showed the jewelry to a journalist who came to the scene to do a “live” broadcast for a television program. “They must be from the victims,” she said.
In addition, mothers of young people who are missing went to the house of the femicide to search among the piles of burned clothes for a garment or some trace of their daughters. Many take photos of their offspring and tell journalists about the ordeal they face to find their loved ones.
These scenes were repeated in recent days. On Friday, four days after the macabre discovery, the Prosecutor’s Office and the Police returned to the house to carry out searches, collect evidence and seal the crime scene.
For many of the citizens, this reaction is late. “After so many days they are coming,” shouted a neighbor who gathered at the scene on Friday, when a backhoe was already parked to demolish the house. In the end, the idea was discarded by the Prosecutor’s Office. Even that day, the mayor Eva Copa arrived with heavy machinery to comply with the request of many neighbors, who presume that there are more bodies buried in the place.
According to the leadership, all the neighbors agreed on something: they do not want the femicide’s family to return to live in the place. “They don’t want those people or their third or fourth generation relatives to come back. They want that place to become a health post,” explained Vargas. “It has been a very hard blow,” he added.
We are protecting the house and we do it for the investigations, we want this to be clarified
We are accompanying the prosecutors’ investigation because people want to take and destroy the house
franklin, another of the neighbors