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The fatal destiny of Landy Párraga, the beauty queen from Ecuador

The country is shocked by the death of the popular 23-year-old entrepreneur, whose murder was captured by security cameras. Her name came up in messages found on a drug dealer’s phone

Landy Parraga at a beauty pageant.
Landy Parraga at a beauty pageant.
Juan Diego Quesada

Landy Párraga, an Ecuadorian beauty queen, was murdered on April 29 by two hitmen who entered a shopping center restaurant. In a matter of seconds, the gunmen approached the victim, who was standing by a table next to another person, shot her up to three times, and ran away. Párraga was a beauty queen who had participated in the Miss Ecuador pageant.

The model was very active on Instagram, where she had 172,000 followers. In addition, she owned a well-known home goods store and a sportswear brand. She lived in the city of Quevedo, southeast of Quito, the capital. Párraga’s name was mentioned in conversations obtained from the phone of the Ecuadorian drug trafficker Leandro Norero, aka El Patrón (The Boss), who was allegedly murdered by an enemy gang in prison.

Years ago, Norero had simulated his own death from Covid-19. But authorities found him and put him behind bars. Later, his body was burned in the prison riot in which he died, according to the official version of events. However, there was never any reliable proof of this, as his DNA was not in any database. His reputation as an escape artist aroused suspicion. To avoid these cases, the government of Daniel Noboa began to illegally collect genetic evidence from prisoners: they were not informed what it was for, because it could be used to identify them after a massacre, but also to implicate them in other crimes of the past. When EL PAÍS made this revelation, sampling stopped and has not been resumed.

Noreno’s conversations in which he cited Párraga were found as part of the Metastasis case, an investigation into a criminal network in charge of corrupting Ecuadorian state officials. Dozens of people have been prosecuted for giving money in exchange for favors to judges, police and prison officials. And not just to average employees, but the main heads of those structures. The case continues to be investigated in court.

Daniel Noboa became president five months ago. He found a country mired in corruption and violence that had eaten away at the country in just three years: until then, Ecuador had been considered one of the safest nations in South America. However, gangs have taken control of the drug trafficking business and, in alliance with Mexican cartels, the country is now the world’s leading cocaine exporter. The port of Guayaquil is at the center of these large-scale operations. Last year, the country recorded 40 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, one of the highest rates in the region.

After a weekend of violence in February, Noboa decreed a state of emergency, with which he took the military to the streets and confronted organized crime in a warlike manner. According to data from the first months of this year, homicides were reduced by half, although murders of politicians, prison escapes and massacres have continued. A month ago, 80 people were murdered in just 24 hours. The suspension of civil liberties has been accompanied by abuses by the police and the military.

Párraga’s murder has had a huge impact in Ecuador, partly due to her popularity and partly because images of the murder were recorded by the restaurant’s security cameras. In the message from the drug trafficker that was intercepted, it is implied that he had a relationship with the model and that he feared his wife would find out about it.

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