MEXICO CITY – Mexican authorities on Tuesday sent mixed messages about the violent death of a prominent LGBTQ figure after thousands of He marched Monday night demanding justice..
Jesús Ociel Baena was found dead along with his partner in their home in the central Mexican city of Aguascalientes on Monday, according to state prosecutors. Baena, the first openly non-binary person to hold judicial office in Mexico, was one of the most visible LGBTQ figures in a country where the community is often the target of violent attacks.
Baena and his partner had already received death threats and hate messages and had state security protection, leading many across the country on Monday to call his death a hate crime.
Authorities have provided minimal details about the killing, and local prosecutors have suggested it may have been a murder-suicide.
“To many it may seem like a not very credible hypothesis, but we are being very careful to record and preserve all the evidence,” said state prosecutor Jesús Figueroa Ortega.
However, federal authorities on Tuesday urged caution in the investigation. Félix Arturo Medina, an official with Mexico’s Interior Ministry, said «it is important not to rule out any line of investigation,» adding that they hoped to coordinate with state authorities to investigate the deaths.
“It is a relevant case for us, not only because of the activism that the magistrate was carrying out,” but also because the government wants all crimes to be investigated, Medina stated.
Impunity is rampant in Mexico. Only 1% of all crimes committed were reported, investigated and solved in 2022, according to a survey by the National Institute of Statistics and Geography.
The hypothesis of state authorities was quickly rejected by many members of Mexico’s LGBTQ community.
Alejandro Brito, director of the LGBTQ rights group Letra S, urged authorities to continue investigating the incident and take into consideration the context of the case and the threats of violence against Baena.
Brito called the state prosecutor’s version of events “fraught with bias” and said the quick conclusions of local authorities have only deepened distrust of authorities among historically victimized communities.
“In these types of homicides they always try to disqualify or belittle,” Brito said. “These statements that the prosecutor is giving are not clarifying the facts, they are adding fuel to the fire of these prejudices.”
People who knew Baena said that in recent weeks the magistrate and Herrera were cheerful and spoke passionately about future activism.
Brito was supported by thousands of people who gathered in the heart of Mexico City lighting candles over photographs of Baena and other victims of anti-LGBTQ violence on Monday night. They shouted “Justice” and “We will not remain silent” and demanded a thorough investigation into the deaths.
“Ociel is, and was, the most relevant figure in the current fight for the human rights of the LGBTQ+ community,” said Humberto Dena, a 24-year-old young man who carried a candle alongside thousands of people in the march. «We want [the authorities] continue to investigate this case, and not simply say that it was a ‘crime of passion.'»
Upon becoming a magistrate in October 2022, Baena was thought to be the first non-binary person in Latin America to take up a judicial position. Baena broke another barrier in May as part of a group of people who were issued Mexico’s first passports that list holders as non-binary.
Baena appeared in regularly posted photos and videos wearing skirts and heels and carrying a rainbow fan in court offices and advocated on social media platforms, attracting hundreds of thousands of followers.
“I am a non-binary person. I am not interested in being seen as either a woman or a man. This is an identity. It is mine, for me and no one else’s. baena aware on X, formerly Twitter, in June. “Accept it.”
Last month, the electoral court gave Baena a certificate recognize the magistrate with the gender-neutral noun “maestre,” a significant step in Spanish, a language that divides most of its words between two genders, masculine or feminine.
While Mexico has taken significant steps to reduce anti-LGBTQ violence, Brito’s Letra S documented an increase in violence against sexual minorities in 2019. In that year alone, at least 117 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people were murdered . Many were gruesome murders, including brutal stabbings and public murders.
The National Observatory of Hate Crimes against LGBTI+ People in Mexico recorded 305 violent hate crimes against sexual minorities in 2019-2022, including murders, disappearances and more.
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