Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Bowing to Pressure, Puerto Rican Authorities Ready to Investigate Gay Teen Murder As Hate Crime


Family Mourns at López Mercado Funeral, Nueva Dia photo

Boston – EDGE Boston reports Wednesday that the heinous murder of Puerto Rican gay teen, Jorge Steven López Mercado, will be investigated as an anti-LGBT hate crime.  This is a victory for LGBT activists on the island and on the mainland who have repeatedly called for the police to pursue the case as a hate murder.  Pedro Julio Serrano, point person for LGBT activism in Puerto Rico, drew international attention to the heterosexist and homophobic attitude of police investigators who at the onset of the case, blamed the gay youth for his own death.  Serrano and others blasted police investigator Ángel Rodríguez Colón for stating to the press that gay people who live their lives openly can simply expect bad things to happen to them.  Colón was replaced as overseer of the case.  After meeting with representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union, Puerto Rican authorities finally have agreed to conduct the investigation as a hate crime murder.  Pointing out that no LGBT person has ever been tried under the provisions of the Puerto Rican hate crimes statute of 2002, the ACLU argued that it was past time for alleged murderers like Juan A. Martínez Matos, who has confessed to slaughtering 19-year-old López Mercado in an anti-gay rage, to be prosecuted as a bias-motivated perpetrator.  Matos is apparently preparing to plead some form of insanity or ‘gay panic’ defense based on accounts of his childhood.  Nueva Dia reports that Henry Ramirez, ACLU executive in Puerto Rico as well as head of the Legal Clinic at the University of Puerto Rico, convinced Puerto Rico Department of Justice Secretary Antonio Sagardía that the time for deflecting the issue of hate crimes against LGBT people in the Commonwealth is long past.  In a statement to the public, Ramirez said, in part, “The ACLU has tried to get the government to accept its responsibility to investigate cases… that are hate crimes, particularly that of young Jorge Steven López Mercado.  We should not be satisfied with the possibility the federal government will do what our government is not interested in doing; which is to protect every citizen.”  The FBI is monitoring events, and may yet intervene in the case with federal charges.  LGBT advocates have long pointed out that the social climate for LGBT Puerto Ricans is hostile.  Conservative Roman Catholic and Protestant attitudes are well-entrenched and powerful throughout most of the Commonwealth.  Heterosexist and homophobic machismo plays a role in pathologizing LGBT people, as well.  Police attitudes are reflective of these negative cultural assumptions.  The López Mercado case may prove to be a watershed for LGBT advocacy in Puerto Rico, and perhaps other places in the Caribbean.  The manner of his death, decapitation, dismemberment, and partial immolation of his body are hallmarks of homophobic rage and bias-motivated hate crime in such obvious ways as to make a hate crime conclusion unavoidable.  López Mercado’s youth also makes this case notable from a media standpoint.  In many ways, Jorge Steven López Mercado may turn out to be Puerto Rico’s Matthew Shepard.

November 26, 2009 - Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Blame the victim, Decapitation and dismemberment, funerals, gay men, gay panic defense, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, immolation, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Legislation, Matthew Shepard, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Puerto Rico, Social Justice Advocacy, stabbings | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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