On January 31, 2022, hundreds of protesters took to the streets of La Paz, Bolivia, regarding new revelations about Richard Choque Flores, who had raped upwards of 70 women and committed at least two femicides. (The term “femicide” refers to the intentional murder of women for gender-motivated reasons.) The La Paz protesters were not simply expressing their horror at Choque Flores’ heinous crimes. They were also denouncing the judicial and prosecutorial corruption that had enabled his continued predation. In fact, Choque Flores had already been arrested in 2015 and sentenced to 30 years in prison. His sentence was then reduced to a house arrest in 2019, whereupon he was able to murder two women from the comfort of his own home. How did Richard Choque Flores manage to get his sentence reduced in the first place? With a bribe of US$3,500 and a bottle of whisky.
Sadly, this story is not unique. In Bolivia as well as other Latin American countries (such as Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico), femicides not only occur at appallingly high rates, but they rarely ever get resolved. While femicide is certainly rooted in patriarchy, its rampant scope in Latin America cannot merely be explained by the misogyny of individual perpetrators. In 2021 alone, there were at least 108 known femicide cases in Bolivia, of which only 36% were solved. In Mexico, around 10 women are reportedly murdered per day (though the actual number is likely much higher). The femicide epidemic is by no means “accidental, ‘involuntary,’ or the result of ‘mere institutional incapacity.’” Rather, it is the product of profound and systematic corruption, which allows perpetrators to violate women with impunity, while imposing prohibitive barriers to justice for victims and their families.