Another possible anti-LGBT murder in Puerto Rico

by Michael K. Lavers
National News Editor
Monday Sep 13, 2010

Puerto Rican authorities continue to investigate the death of two transgender women found dead on a local highway.

El Nuevo Día reported local police discovered the bodies of "two men who were dressed in women's clothes" along Highway 512 in Juana Díaz around 2:30 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 13. The newspaper said both victims, who were between 20- and 25-years-old, were shot in the head.

El Nuevo Día further reported authorities arrested a 28-year-old man in connection with the murders after they found blood and human tissue inside his car. Pedro Julio Serrano of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force urged Puerto Rican authorities to investigate the deaths as hate crimes.

"At the very least it is probable that these crimes could have been motivated by prejudice based on the victims' sexual orientation or gender identity," he said in a statement. "The authorities have an obligation under the law to investigate this hate angle."

There have been 682 homicides in Puerto Rico so far this year, but these murders are the latest to spark concern among LGBT Puerto Ricans. Ashley Santiago Ocasio was stabbed to death in her Corozal home in April. And Juan José Martínez Matos stabbed Jorge Steven López Mercado to death before he decapitated, dismembered and partially burned the gay teenager's body in Nov. 2009.

As EDGE previously reported, a judge sentenced Martínez to 99 years in prison after he confessed he killed López. Serrano, who has maintained Puerto Rican authorities have not adequately applied the island's hate crime statutes, which includes both sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, stressed they must investigate the Juana Díaz murders as such.

"We urge the police and the prosecutor to appropriately and quickly investigate this double murder and to classify them... as hate crimes if they discover enough evidence to determine it was motivated by prejudice," he said.

The victims and the man who allegedly murdered them have not been identified.

Based in Washington, D.C., Michael K. Lavers has appeared in the New York Times, BBC, WNYC, Huffington Post, Village Voice, Advocate and other mainstream and LGBT media outlets. He is an unapologetic political junkie who thoroughly enjoys living inside the Beltway.


  • , 2010-09-13 12:26:59

    How about we let the investigation run its course before portraying Puerto Rico as an unfriendly, violent, and homophobic country?

  • , 2010-09-13 17:47:01

    it is a homophobic country and i cant tell you that freely i grew up there 25 years old so please your comment its not acceptable THANKS!

  • , 2010-09-14 14:52:13

    I left the island in 2005, and it is ruled by some very homophobic politicians & police. The present Governor, Fortuno, is an extremely homophobic Opus Dei member. The President of Senate, Jorge Rivera Shatz has opposed all legislation which would protect or give equal rights to the LGBT community. The Judiciary is so bizarre that in 2002, the Puerto Rico Supreme Court ruled that the commonwealth’s ban on sodomy was not unconstitutional. Sodomy was still illegal until 2005. Although a hate crimes law exists, there has never been a murder of a gay person prosecuted as a hate crime...never, not even one. Radical religious leaders, especially the Roman Catholics, have scary control over the government. They literally preach on the steps of the Capitol with politicians standing with them. There is not even an appearance of separation of church & state. The police are notoriously vicious in their attacks against civil rights activists & LGBT citizens. Just check out their actions at the student strike at UPR, Rio Piedras and at the Capitol demonstration recently. La Isla del Encanto is full of wonderful loving people, but the homophobes have control of the Christian churches, the government, the judiciary, and the police.

  • aica, 2010-09-14 20:46:41

    I have been living in PR for all my life and I can honestly say that most of it’s politicians and, obviously, religious groups are against equal treatment for LGBT citizens. But the population, especially young adults, are not extremely homophobic. Of course, there are exceptions and people who’ve grown up in a very catholic household are more likely to be homophobic. In my experience, I’ve found a lot of support on the island. From the ones I know, to people I’ve just met. I would not consider it a homophobic country. These murders can happen anywhere, not that I accept them as right or as isolated but it is not the only place they will happen.

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