Argentina once led LGBTQ rights. After 4 Samlingkas were set on fire, the critics went on a rampage.




CNN

It was an attack that sent shock waves through a country long considered a champion of LGBTQ rights. On the morning of May 6, four gay women were set on fire in Argentina. Only one of them survived.

It happened in a boarding house in the Baracas neighborhood of Buenos Aires, where Pamela Fabiana Cobas, Mercedes Roxana Figueroa, Andrea Amarante and Sofia Castro Regallo were sharing a room. Witnesses say a man entered and threw an incendiary device, which set the women on fire.

Pamela died soon after. His partner Roxana died of organ failure several days later. Andrea died on May 12 at a hospital.

Andrea's partner Sofia was the only survivor. Sofia's attorney, Gabriela Conder, told CNN that she spent weeks recovering in the hospital and is alive today only because Andrea threw herself on top of herself to protect herself from the flames. “His partner saved him,” Conder said.

Local LGBTQ rights advocates condemned the attack as a hate crime and homophobic, saying women were targeted because of their gender identity. Police have arrested a 62-year-old man who lived in the building but, according to Conder, the incident is not currently being treated as a hate crime because he says the motive is still unclear. Is.

For Argentina's LGBTQ groups – many of whom are planning to commemorate the four women with a rally this weekend – the attack is an extreme manifestation of what they see as hostility against them. Understand the rising tide. Those in power are most responsible for this growing intolerance. Chief among them, he says, is Javier Meli, the country's new far-right leader.

“Things changed with the new government of Javier Meli,” said Maria Rachad, head of the Institute Against Discrimination at the Office of the Ombudsman in Buenos Aires and board member and founder of the Argentine LGBT Federation (FALGBT).

“Since the inauguration of the new government, national government officials have been discriminating and hurling hate speech at our communities with such force that, of course, what they do is created – actually legal. positions – and supports these discriminations. Positions that are then expressed in everyday life with violence and discrimination,” Ratched said.

Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images

Women light candles during a vigil in front of the boarding house where two gay men were killed on May 8, 2024, in Buenos Aires.

When Meli ran for president in 2023, he and his party were accused of making offensive comments against the LGBTQ community that were deemed hate speech by several groups, including Argentina's LGBTQ Hate Crimes Commission. National Observatory.

In a YouTube interview before the November election, Miley insisted he was not opposed to gay marriage, but in the same interview, he compared homosexuality to having sex with animals.

“What do I care what your sexual preference is? If you want to be with an elephant, and you have the elephant's consent, that's a problem between you and the elephant,” he told LGB. said, angering the TQ communities, who described the comments as dehumanizing.

In late October, then-Congresswoman Diana Mondino, who would later become Miley's secretary of state, told an interviewer that she supported marriage equality in theory, but at the same time, it Also compared to having lice.

“As a liberal, I'm in favor of every person's life plan. It's much broader than marriage equality. Let me exaggerate: If you don't like taking baths and being filled with lice and it's your business. “That's it. Don't complain later if someone doesn't like that you have lice,” he said.

Since taking office in December, Miley has taken steps that critics say have weakened protections for LGBTQ groups. He banned the use of gendered language in government. The Ministry of Women, Gender and Diversity has been replaced by a less powerful undersecretariat within the Ministry of Human Capital. and effectively shut down the National Anti-Discrimination Agency, saying the Ministry of Justice would absorb its functions.

Martin Cosarini/Reuters

People participate in the LGBTQ Pride Parade in front of the Congress building on November 4, 2023 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Meli's administration argued that some of these measures were part of a plan to cut public spending in response to the country's economic woes. But critics say his actions have normalized a culture of discrimination against LGBTQ groups, and in extreme cases, led to violent attacks like the deadly May 6 arson.

“When hate speech is enabled by those in power, these sectors feel justified to attack,” said Esteban Pallon, a former FALGBT president who was elected to Congress last year. told CNN in a phone interview. “And of course, verbal attacks are followed by physical attacks.”

“(Attacks) always happen. That's the reality. But they have increased in this current government because of the constant hate speech on television, including the hate speech that our president, Javier Meli, makes. ” said Jesi Hernández, a lesbian and communications member of Lesbianxs Autoconvocadxs por la masacre de Barracas (Self-Called Gays for the Barracas Massacre).

“Today it was Pamela, Roxana, Andrea and Sofia. And tomorrow it could be me.”

CNN has repeatedly reached out to the presidency for comment on the allegations, but has not received a response.

In 2023, the annual report of the National Observatory of LGBTQ Hate Crimes recorded 133 crimes in which victims' sexual orientation, identity and/or gender expression were used as a pretext for attacks. This number increased from 2022 and 2021, when 129 and 120 crimes were recorded respectively.

Rachid pointed out that the observatory's numbers represent only the attacks that have been officially recorded, and the actual figure is likely to be much higher.

Hernandez, meanwhile, notes that many people's daily lives have been affected in ways that aren't just shown by statistics. Some now fear they could be targeted next.

Hernandez said, referring to the May 6 attack, “The fact that we can now sleep peacefully in our bed is a privilege. Now is a privilege for us.”

Despite calls from LGBTQ activists, the arson is being investigated as an aggravated murder rather than a hate crime, according to Conder, Sofia's lawyer. Conder said Sophia is scheduled to testify at the end of the month. CNN has reached out to the criminal court investigating the case but has not heard back.

Shortly after the May 6 killings, presidential spokesman Manuel Adorni condemned the attack but rejected the idea that it was motivated by hatred of the victims' sexual orientation.

“I don't like to describe it as an attack on a specific group,” Adorni said at a press conference. “There are many women and men who are victims of violence and these are things that cannot continue.”

Progressives condemned his remarks, insisting that the government should treat homosexuality as a hate crime.

Adorni responded on social media with a picture of a Spanish dictionary that says homosexual is not a registered word.

Argentina was once a pioneer of progressivism in Latin America.

In 2010, it became the first country in the region to legalize same-sex marriage. In 2021, it also became the first country to allow non-binary people to mark their gender as an “X” on national identity documents.

LGBTQ activists fear that these historic gains are now being undermined – and potentially threatened – by the current government. But they also take comfort in surveys that suggest anti-LGBTQ views are in the minority in Argentina.

About 72 percent of respondents said they favor marriage equality, with 70 percent saying they support policies that discriminate against transgender people, according to a public opinion poll conducted in May by the University of San Andreas. , 75 percent said they don't consider it. that transsexuality is a disease that should be medically treated, and 79% said comprehensive sexuality education in schools is a positive thing.

Recent attacks have mobilized activists to fight for new policies and actions that will further protect LGBTQ rights.

Congressman Pallone told CNN that lawmakers are working with rights groups on various laws that would, among other things, punish discrimination, prevent harassment in schools and protect people based on their sexual orientation, identity and gender. will prohibit attempts to “correct”

He also said that in order to reduce attacks on LGBTQ communities, their voices and demands should be amplified in more social spheres.

To that end, Hernández encouraged LGBTQ groups to push back against hate speech, telling those communities: “They're not crazy, they're not sick, they're not people with lice. Absolutely. The opposite of. I would tell them that they are a disruptive person, that they are breaking out of the 'normal' mold and that they are very brave… and that they are whatever they want to be ”

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