At least three gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender Americans have been murdered in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico this week, bringing the tragic total to 18 in the past year and a half. While there are both local and federal hate crimes laws that would assist authorities in investigating and potentially stemming the rapid rise of these anti-gay hate crimes, the Republican Governor of Puerto Rico, Luis G. Fortuño, has often refused to implement or access these statutes.
Luis G. Fortuño, whose term began in January, 2009, refused to classify as a hate crime the infamous decapitation murder of 19-year old Jorge Steven López Mercado, perhaps the most-publicized of the 18 murders. Only under threat from the federal government, was Mercado’s murder investigated as a possible hate crime. Last year, Fortuño attempted to ban same-sex marriage in Puerto Rico permanently via a constitutional amendment.
In addition to the murder of Jorge Steven López Mercado on November 14, 2009, the following have also been classified as LGBT murders:
- Michaell Galindo
- Ashley Santiago
- Angie González Oquendo
- Fernando López de Victoria
- Humberto Bonilla Rodríguez
- Michelle González García
- La Flaca Soto Fernández
- Benjamín Acevedo Román
- Charlotte Crespo
- Frank Di Giovani
- Ivan McDonald
- Edwin Rodríguez Grajales
- Ezequiel Crespo
- Eugenio Alberto Rivera Ortiz
- Karlota Brown
- Alejandro Torres Torres
- Ramón ‘Moncho’ Salgado
Tuesday, Edge On The Net National News Editor Michael K. Lavers was the first to recognize that in addition to the deaths this week of Karlota Gómez Sánchez and Alejandro Torres Torres, ”Salgado is the 18th LGBT Puerto Rican who has been murdered on the island over the last year and a half.” Lavers added, “This is simply unacceptable. And people really need to begin to pay attention to this appalling situation in Puerto Rico that continues to grow worse by the day.”
Today, The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force issued a statement “calling upon authorities to act immediately to address the ongoing anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) violence in Puerto Rico.”
Task Force Communications Manager Pedro Julio Serrano, Founder, Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, added,
“The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force stands in solidarity with the LGBT community in Puerto Rico and sends its deepest condolences to the families and friends of Karlota Gómez Sánchez, Ramón Salgado and Alejandro Torres Torres. As someone who grew up in Puerto Rico and has been very active in its LGBT community, this is a heart-wrenching moment. Our thoughts and sympathies go out to all of the victims’ loved ones at this difficult time. Justice must prevail. This is about members of the Puerto Rican LGBT community feeling safe in their communities and being able to take care of the ones they love. We call upon the authorities and political leaders to effectively address this epidemic of anti-LGBT violence. This must stop now.”
On his personal blog, Serrano said the LGBT communities “are on alert to the danger that lurks and the government’s response is zero. They are killing us with impunity and the government turns a blind eye. The official response so far has been silent or complicit, shameful and immoral as is the case with Fortuño or a blatant homophobia that incites to violence as is the case of Rivera Schatz. It is time for the governor of all Puerto Ricans to recognize that there is a problem of violence against gay people, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in our country, we’re as Puerto Ricans as heterosexuals,” according to a Google translation.
GLAAD today told The New Civil Rights Movement via email they are calling on “local and national media to keep shining an all-important spotlight on the terrible violence being faced by the gay and transgender people in Puerto Rico. We will continue monitoring media and reaching out to journalists to ensure they have the resources they need to do this in ways that are fair, accurate and inclusive.”
HRC on Wednesday “called upon federal and local government officials and law enforcement authorities to strengthen their efforts to implement a long-term strategy to address violence against LGBT individuals in Puerto Rico.”
“The alarming rate of violence against LGBT Puerto Rican’s cannot be tolerated,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese in a statement. “Puerto Rican government officials and law enforcement, as well as the U.S. Department of Justice, must ensure that LGBT people have the protection they need to survive. When a community has to live in constant fear of violence and even death for who they are, everyone suffers.”
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