Assaults on Gay and Transgender People in Puerto Rico

The Miami Herald’s France Robles reports on the wave of anti-gay, lesbian, and transgender assaults that have been increasing since November 2009, when transgender teenager Jorge Steven López was decapitated, dismembered and set ablaze [see previous post Horrific murder of gay adolescent shocks Puerto Rico]. Robles states that eighteen gay or transgender people have been killed since then, three murdered in a single week earlier this month. Here are excerpts with a link to the full article below:

The murders have been committed in various areas across the island and by different perpetrators, which advocates say underscores their belief that widespread homophobia—not a serial killer—is the culprit. [. . .] The attacks come amid growing fundamentalist rhetoric on the island, where senior politicians are often influenced by conservative religious leaders who speak out publicly against homosexuals. Even as arrests are made and long sentences handed out, experts here say murders and harassment have continued, because the government has failed to implement anti-discrimination policy and remains largely mute on the disturbing trend.

[. . .] “You have religious and political leaders saying: ‘Gays don’t matter; they are the devil and twisted,’” said Pedro Julio Serrano, the communications manager for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “That’s inciting violence. We have not seen anything like this here since the 1980s.” In that decade, serial killer Angel Colón Maldonado, aka the “Angel of the Bachelors,” was found guilty of killing six gay men. He was suspected of killing 27 more.

Serrano said today’s anti-gay rhetoric is largely led by Puerto Rican Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz, who makes it a point to ask senior government job candidates up for confirmation hearings whether they support gay marriage. [. . .] Pastor Wanda Rolón [also] made headlines when she posted a Facebook status update saying that “RM” was going to “send Puerto Rico to hell.” Later, she denied that she was comparing singer Ricky Martin to the devil, but lamented how the entertainer flaunts his homosexuality.

[. . .] “The politicians are under the influence of these fundamentalists and their hate speech,” said Sophia Isabel Marrero Cruz, a transsexual activist who leads TTM, Transsexuals and Transgenders on the Move. “There is a pattern, and that threatening pattern is repetitive and escalating.” [Also see previous post Puerto Rico panel to investigate hate crimes.]

Her organization launched a crime watch to protect LGBT people, who tend to hang out outdoors because of a lack of bars that accept them, she said. [. . .] “There are people in the criminal justice system who really work hard on these cases, but police and judges need to be sensitized. People are prejudiced and allow themselves to be influenced by religious rhetoric.” Although the prosecutor’s office in Puerto Rico has a solid track record of getting long prison sentences once killers have been caught, she said prosecutors have not once used existing hate crime legislation as an aggravating factor in prosecutions.

Puerto Rico’s top prosecutor said the hate crime law has not been applied because it’s a difficult element to prove and he fears that a case could collapse if enough evidence is not presented. Cops and prosecutors are being trained about sensitivity and how to gather such evidence, Department of Justice Secretary Guillermo Somoza said. “I’d rather have a first-degree murder conviction than see the case collapse because we failed to prove the killing was motivated by prejudice because the person was white, Puerto Rican, Dominican or lesbian,” Somoza said. “I’d rather have a bird in the hand then two flying around.” His office’s special task force on hate crimes found there have been 23 murders of gays and transgender people in two years.

For complete article, see

For photo and related articles, see and–gay-puerto-rico-opens-its-arms

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