There are some stories that simply leave even the most cynical bloggers and journalists speechless. The brutal attack of a gay Chilean man earlier this month is one of them.
Raúl Alfonso López Fuentes, Alejandro Axel Angulo Tapia, Patricio Iván Ahumada Garay and Fabián Alexis Mora Mora allegedly struck Daniel Zamudio with bottles, a rock that weighed more than 13 lbs. and other blunt objects inside a downtown Santiago park early on March 3 before they cut off part of his ear. Prosecutors said the four young men who reportedly called themselves “nazis del Centro” carved swastikas into Zamudio’s chest and burned other parts of his body. Zamudio, 24, remained in a coma for nearly a week after the four men allegedly attacked him.
What could have possibly prompted López, Angulo, Ahumada and Mora to allegedly commit such a brutal crime?
This question has unfortunately been raised in the wake other attacks against LGBT people in this country and around the world. These include Jorge Steven López Mercado in Puerto Rico, José Sucuzhañay and Jack Price in New York City, David Kato in Uganda, Matthew Shepard, Chrissy Lee Polis in Rosedale, Md., and countless others whose names are known or unknown. One can make the obvious argument that those who commit these acts of violence have shown contempt for their victims’ humanity. These crimes, however, do not occur in a vacuum.
Kato’s murder inside his home in the Ugandan capital in Jan. 2011 took place against the backdrop of the debate over a bill that would impose the death penalty against anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts in the East African country. Activists have repeatedly blasted Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuño for his failure to publicly speak out against the deaths of roughly two dozen LGBT Puerto Ricans since López’s decapitated, dismembered and partially burned body was found dumped along a remote roadside in Nov. 2009—the governor last December said he supports the island’s LGBT-inclusive hate crimes law after the Puerto Rico Senate approved a measure that would remove sexual orientation and gender identity and expression from the statute. Sucuzhañay succumbed to injuries he suffered during a brutal attack near a Brooklyn intersection a month after a group of teenagers beat Ecuadorian immigrant Marcelo Lucero to death in the parking lot of a Long Island train station. Latino and civil rights organizations pointed to then-Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy’s anti-immigrant rhetoric as an underlying factor that contributed to Lucero’s murder.
Chilean Interior Minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter again urged the country’s lawmakers to pass a bill that would ban anti-LGBT discrimination in the days following the brutal attack against Zamudio that sparked widespread outrage. Less than a month before López’s brutal death, President Barack Obama signed a bill that expanded the federal hate crimes law to include sexual orientation and gender identity. These laws alone, however, are not the only solution to ensure these horrific crimes do not happen again. It takes a collective repudiation of the anti-LGBT discrimination and hate speech that allows López, Angulo, Ahumada, Mora and others to think it is acceptable to brutally disregard the dignity and humanity of others based upon who they are.