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  HOME | Caribbean

Puerto Rican Authorities Accused of Tolerating Homophobia

SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico’s gay community blames island authorities for tolerating an atmosphere of homophobia that might have encouraged the slaying of 10 of their number over the past year.

The activist of the Puerto Rico for Everyone Association, Pedro Julio Serrano, told Efe on Tuesday that there is an atmosphere of “institutionalized homophobia” that been no help in stopping the series of killings inflicted on the island’s gays.

Serrano, a leader of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community, or LGBT, said that homophobia is well established in institutions like the police and the prosecutor’s office.

Serrano’s accusations come after the gunning down of Justo Luis “Michelle” Gonzalez and Miguel Orlando “La Flaca” Soto, two young transsexuals found dead Sept. 13 on a highway in the town of Juana Diaz.

These two victims increase to 10 the number of murders since last October, when the body of the gay Michell Galindo Rullier, half naked and showing signs of violence, appeared on a San Juan beach.

Serrano gave as an example to justify his complaints the case he learned about in March, of a young gay who was sodomized with a baseball bat in the town of Barranquitas, an abuse that according to the activist was not classified as a hate crime because of the prosecutors’ prejudices.

He also mentioned the chief detective of the Ponce Region, Richard Nazario, who publicly showed his ignorance of the Hate Crimes Law, which according to Serrano should have been considered relevant in the murder case of the Juana Diaz transsexuals.

Serrano identified as another unhelpful attitude that of Senate speaker Thomas Rivera Schatz, who publicly branded gays as sick, perverts and criminals.

The activist said that accusations of this kind become an incitement to violence against the LGBT community.

Serrano added that he himself has witnessed situations in which Puerto Rican police have referred to gays in a humiliating way, yet this is a corps that is supposed to protect these people.

The director of the Web site Orgullo Boricua.net, Mario Rodriguez, said that transsexuals are seized with terror following the series of recent murders committed against their group.

Rodriguez also said that statements like that of the speaker of the Senate do not create an atmosphere that lends itself to defending Puerto Rico’s gay community.

He said that another sign of the reigning homophobia is the determination by some members of the government to promote Resolution 107, which proposes a referendum on an amendment to the island’s constitution stating that a marriage can only be a union between a man and a woman. EFE

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