Trans women murdered in Puerto Rico

Mercado-1

This morning I got an e-mail from Oscar Lopez with the Latino Commission on AIDS regarding the recent murders of two trans women in Puerto Rico.

Angie Gonzalez Oquendo’s body was found Monday, May 24 in Caguas, and Ashley Santiago was murdered in her home in Corozal on April 19. Lopez says police are investigating both murders and have not ruled out the possibility that these were hate crimes.

If these latest killings are determined to be hate crimes, Lopez says, they will be “the continuation of a disturbing trend,” noting that these murders come less than a year after gay teen Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado (right) was murdered, dismembered and his body set on fire by a man who said the teen was wearing a dress when he picked him up looking for sex, and he thought the young man was a woman.

Juan Jose Martinez Matos confessed to killing Lopez Mercado and earlier this month was sentenced to 99 years in prison.

The e-mail from Oscar Lopez included a statement from Latino Commission on AIDS President Guillermo Chacon, who urged his fellow Puerto Ricans to fight the violence by working to end homophobia, transphobia and all kinds of discrimination.

Chacon said: “I urge the Latino community to be united as one voice and with our personal actions reject any type of homophobia, transphobia and discrimination. We are one family; we must pursue the well-being of all our members. We must address homophobia and transphobia by putting a stop to the jokes, slurs, discrimination and hatred faced by our LGBT brothers and sisters, not just in Puerto Rico but across the entire country. Hatred and violence are never the answer.”

—  admin

Police arrest suspect in murder, dismemberment of gay Puerto Rican teen

Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado (Primera Hora)
Jorge Steven Lopez (Image: Primera Hora)

Puerto Rican police have arrested a suspect in the murder of a gay teenager whose body was found decapitated and partially burned Friday in the southern town of Cayey, The Associated Press reports today.

Authorities are looking into whether Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado, 19, was targeted because he was gay, and the case has sent shockwaves across Puerto Rico’s LGBT community.

The newspaper Primera Hora is reporting that the suspect was identified after extensive interviews with Mercado’s friends in the town of Caguas, where Mercado was living. The suspect, a 28-year-old whose identity hasn’t been released, reportedly offered Mercado money for sex.

The Puerto Rico Police Department has removed Investigator Angel Rodriguez from the case after Rodriguez made comments suggesting that Lopez was to blame for his own death, according to Edge.

“When these type of people get into this and go out into the streets like this, they know this can happen to them,” Rodriguez reportedly said in a statement to local media outlets.

Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, the LGBT advocacy group, is calling for Rodriguez to be disciplined for the comment. The group is also calling on police to investigate the case as an anti-gay hate crime. Although Puerto Rico added sexual orientation to its hate crimes statute in 2002, Para Tod@s says the statute hasn’t been used to prosecute anti-gay violence. The FBI has announced it will take jurisdiction over the case if it’s determined that Lopez was killed because he was gay.

Lopez’s body was found after his friends reported that he failed to meet them as planned at a popular gay club in the Santurce neighborhood of San Juan. Authorities haven’t identified the suspect because he hasn’t been formally charged.

LGBT groups plan several vigils as well as a protest outside the U.S. territory’s Capitol.

—  John Wright