The unusual story of the man who spent 86 days in jail accused of trafficking nuclear weapons for carrying a doll that bothered Rafael Correa
Francisco Sampedro was working as a driver when he was hired to transport a cardboard sheep during a protest against the former president
The sheep doll for which Francisco Sampedro was arrested in 2015
During the government of Rafael Correa in Ecuador expressions against the regime were harshly reprimanded. Protesters who opposed correista policies were beaten, imprisoned, and persecuted.
One of the most embarrassing and unusual scenes of the correista regime was the arrest of Francisco Sampedro, a driver who was hired to transport a cardboard doll of a sheep during a protest and who accused for trafficking in chemical and nuclear weapons.
During the government of Rafael Correa, when the opposition called for a march, the regime responded with a counter-march, attended by public officials and militants who received sandwiches and drinks at the end of the event. Due to this dynamic and the exacerbated fanaticism in favor of Correa, his followers received the nickname “sheep“, alluding to the fact that they move en masse under the order of the Caudillo.
On November 26, 2015, Francisco Sampedro was detained by members of the National Police hours after an anti-government protest in Guayaquil.
Francisco Sampedro was imprisoned for 86 days and after almost two years of judicial battle the Prosecutor's Office refrained from accusing him of the crime of trafficking in chemical weapons.
Sampedro was transporting a doll in the shape of a sheep in his vehicle and this caused him to be charged as the perpetrator of the crime of illicit trafficking in firearms, chemical, nuclear or biological weapons, typified in article 362 of the Code Organic Comprehensive Criminal and whose penalty includes imprisonment from five to seven years.
According to the police officers who participated in the arrest, at 6:40 p.m. that day, in the middle of the protest, they incinerated tires and a cardboard doll in the shape of a sheep outside the Guayas Governor's Office. The sheep carried a sign with the legend: “Approving the bullshit I will get grass for my stomach”. The demonstration that day opposed the approval of a series of constitutional amendments that were later repealed.
The uniformed officers identified Sampedro's truck and assured that the tires were unloaded from it with “suspected explosive material”. For this reason, almost two and a half hours later “we proceeded to locate and immediately intercept this vehicle and its driver.” The police said that in Sampedro's truck they found flags, posters, sticks, tubes and flyers of paper with manuscripts and that the driver allegedly had liquor on his breath, according to the special Survivors of Plan V.
Sampedro was arrested in flagrante delicto and was given no explanation for the offense he committed.
The sheep-shaped doll that Francisco Sampedro was transporting was incinerated during a protest against Rafael Correa in 2015.
The objects found in Sampedro's vehicle, such as tires, paper or gasoline, could not be classified as firearms or as chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, according to several experts.
Sampedro was imprisoned86 days in the < b>Litoral Penitentiary, the most violent prison in the country, since preventive detention for investigation was applied. On February 20, 2016, he was released and was able to defend himself in that state until June 30, 2017, almost two years after that demonstration, he was declared innocent. The Prosecutor's Office decided to refrain from charging Sampedro because they did not have sufficient evidence to prove the guilt of the driver who was transporting a sheep doll in his truck.
“Everything that President Correa did to me because I was innocently there (in jail), accused of something I had not committed. For doing the freight, he he was merciless with me and sent me to live in the Litoral Penitentiary and made me file a file. It affected me quite a bit. I was left without a car, without a job…” said Sampedro in an interview that went viral on social networks.
Family, friends and transport unions demonstrated several times in favor of Francisco Sampedro.
Sampedro's story is not the only one that demonstrates the little tolerance of the Rafael Correa regime towards the manifestations of his opponents. For example, on May 1, 2015, Luis Calderón, a student was arrested and sentenced to perform 20 hours of community service for making an obscene gesture at the president. The same was experienced by the artist Jaime Guevara, who also made an obscene gesture to the president during a presidential caravan in 2013. Guevara assured that Correa got out of the car that was transporting him, insulted him, calling them “drunk” and “ marihuanero” to the artist and challenged him to face blows.
Likewise, in 2011, Correa attacked Irma Parra, who supported the No to the consultation popular. The woman also made an obscene gesture at him.
One of the emblematic cases of judicial persecution during Rafael Correa's term was the accusation of terrorism against Francisco Endara Daza who was sentenced for applauding during demonstrations that took place on September 30, 2010, the day a police revolt took place in Ecuador.