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Panama president urged to veto adoption bill’s anti-gay amendments

Fundación Iguales: Measure violates international law

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The Panama National Assembly in Panama City (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

PANAMA CITY — Activists in Panama have urged the country’s president to remove two provisions of a bill that would prevent same-sex couples from adopting children.

The Panamanian National Assembly on March 3 approved Bill 120, which would reform the country’s adoption system.

Article 22 of the bill states a man and a woman “united in marriage or a common law marriage for a minimum of two years” can adopt a child. La Prensa, a Panamanian newspaper, notes Article 26 of the bill would allow joint adoptions “when the people are spouses or in a common law marriage and are of different sex.”

Fundación Iguales, a Panamanian LGBTQ rights group, and other advocacy groups in an open letter to President Laurentino Cortizo Cohen have urged him to veto Articles 22 and 26 from the bill before he signs it.

“It is the government’s duty to ensure the faithful compliance of our National Constitution without (extending) privileges to one group at the expense of another, and to comply with international human rights commitments, which are based on the dignity and well-being of people, without any kind of distinction,” reads the letter.

“We raise this request to amend the Adoption Law’s recent amendments,” it adds.

Fundación Iguales President Iván Chanis Barahona on Thursday told the Blade during a WhatsApp interview from Panama that lawmakers introduced the bill after reports emerged that indicated children and seniors suffered physical and sexual abuse in government-run homes.

Chanis told the Blade the country’s previous adoption law did not include gender-specific references to married couples.

He said the two anti-LGBTQ lawmakers who introduced Articles 22 and 26 saw “a future where same-sex marriage is legal” in Panama. Chanis told the Blade the bill was not published online before the vote, and some lawmakers did not read Bill 120 before they voted for it.

“This was a law presented in the midst of this scandal,” he said. “In less than 24 hours they modified it and they approved it.”

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and Human Rights Watch are among the groups that have expressed concern over the bill. Cortizo, for his part, has not publicly said whether he will veto Articles 22 and 26 before he signs the measure into law.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights in 2012 ruled in favor of Karen Atala, a lesbian judge from Chile who lost custody of her three daughters to her ex-husband because of her sexual orientation. The landmark decision established a legal precedent throughout Latin America.

The same court, which is based in Costa Rica, in 2018 issued another landmark ruling that recognizes same-sex marriage and transgender rights. The Panamanian government announced it would comply with the decision.

The Organization of American States, which is based in D.C., created court in 1979 in order to enforce provisions of the American Convention on Human Rights. Panama is among the countries that currently recognize the convention.

Chanis told the Blade his group is “not against” the adoption bill, but added “you cannot deprive children the right of having a family by discriminating against who their mothers and fathers are. It’s discriminatory and it’s against the best interests of the child.” Chanis added the measure the National Assembly passed violates international law.

“It’s a setback for human rights in the country,” he said.

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Mexico

U.S. Consulate warns Americans avoid travel to Tijuana as violence erupts

The U.S. Consulate General Tijuana: Officials are aware of reports of multiple vehicle fires, roadblocks, & heavy police activity in Tijuana

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Burning vehicle in Tijuana (Photo Credit: Screenshot Twitter video)

TIJUANA, Baja California, Mexico – The U.S. Consulate General Tijuana issued an alert to American citizens after threats and two days of violence by a regional drug cartel in this popular tourist destination south of San Diego. Officials also warned its personnel to shelter in place.

In a message the U.S. Consulate General Tijuana wrote that officials are aware of reports of multiple vehicle fires, roadblocks, and heavy police activity in Tijuana, Mexicali, Rosarito, Ensenada, and Tecate. U.S. government employees have been instructed to shelter in place until further notice.

Baja California Governor Marina del Pilar Avila Olmeda tweeted: “We will apply all the strength of our government so that there is peace and we find those responsible for these attacks.”

Media outlets in San Diego and Baja California are reporting that the violence started Thursday in a Ciudad Juarez prison after the Sinaloa Cartel, once led by the infamous Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, and a local group, Los Mexicles, began feuding. The riot left two dead and 16 injured before breaking out into the streets. At that time a shelter in place order was issued.

That violence has now spread to other parts of the country including Tecate, Tijuana, Playas de Rosarito, Mexicali, and Ensenada in Baja California.

On Friday, cartel soldiers set multiple vehicles on fire, set up multiple road blockades and engaged in shootouts with Mexican security forces. Residents of Tecate, Tijuana, Playas de Rosarito, Mexicali, and Ensenada are sharing videos of burnt vehicles in the street on various social media platforms.

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Ventura County

Chair of Ventura County Board of Supervisors killed in traffic accident

“Her kindness, love and deep compassion for the community was felt by everyone. She will be dearly missed”

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Chair of the Ventura County Board of Supervisors, Carmen Ramirez. (Photo Credit: County of Ventura, Calif.)

OXNARD, Ca. – The beloved chair of the Ventura County Board of Supervisors Carmen Ramirez was killed in a traffic accident in Oxnard Friday the Ventura County Star newspaper reported.

Ramirez, 73, had first served on the Oxnard City Council and then in November 2020, she became the first Latina in the county’s history to be elected supervisor. She achieved another first the Star reported when her fellow board members elected her as chairwoman of the powerful board becoming the first Latina to hold that position.

According to the Star, the crash occurred about 6:45 p.m. at Seventh and A streets in Oxnard. Oxnard Police Chief Jason Benites said the driver of the vehicle remained at the scene and was cooperative.

Ramirez was transported to Ventura County Medical Center in Ventura where she was pronounced dead at 7:17 p.m., the chief said.

The initial investigation determined that a large truck, driven by a 38-year-old man, was traveling westbound on Seventh Street toward A Street. Ramirez, who was reported to be crossing the intersection within the pedestrian crosswalk, was struck by the vehicle.  

In her official bio on her 2020 campaign website it noted that she grew up in the San Gabriel Valley with six siblings and worked in Ventura County since 1978. The county’s website states she served on the Oxnard City Council for 10 years.

Prior to being elected to the council in 2010, she worked as a longtime legal aid attorney serving low-income communities in Ventura County, her bio read.

“I offer my sincere condolences to her husband, Roy Prince, and her family,” said Oxnard Mayor John Zaragoza in a statement released Saturday. “We will miss Carmen tremendously. We worked together often, while I was serving as Supervisor and she was Oxnard’s Mayor Pro Tem, and this camaraderie continued when she was elected Supervisor and I served as Mayor. She was passionate about environmental justice and creating a better future for our City. Her kindness, love and deep compassion for the community was felt by everyone. She will be dearly missed.”

Interim County Executive Officer Sevet Johnson described Ramirez as “passionate” and “hard working,” calling her a huge advocate on climate issues as well as on behalf of her community and underserved populations.

“She was a powerhouse,” Johnson said.

“We were all blessed to have known her, blessed to have been her friend,” Supervisor Linda Parks said.

The LGBTQ community in Oxnard expressed its grief and condolences in a Facebook post writing:

“We, The city of Oxnard, and all of the people you have shined your light on are deeply saddened and in mourning from your loss. OxnardLGBTQ did not get the pleasure of knowing you, or work with you more thank we hoped for, but we knew you were a powerhouse, and major advocate for La Raza and our Queer community. You will be remembered by so many for all that you did and your legacy. Our sincere condolences to all of your family, friends and close acquainted. You will be truly missed. Descansa en paz Carmen Ramírez 🕊✊🏽❤️🌈

The City of Oxnard Police tweeted that a candlelight vigil will be held at Plaza Park in Oxnard in honor of Ramirez at 7 p.m.

Ramirez is survived by her husband, Roy Prince. She was predeceased by her brother Ricardo Ramirez.

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Long Beach

Long Beach Police need public’s help locating sexual assault suspect

Suspect described as a male White or Hispanic approximately 18-25 years old, between 5’10” to 5’11” in height, with a thin build, short hair

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Photo Credit: City of Long Beach Police Department/Facebook


LONG BEACH – (Press Release) The Long Beach Police Department is seeking the public’s help locating a male suspect involved in a sexual battery incident involving a minor.

On July 31, 2022, at approximately 1:30 p.m., officers responded to the 1100 block of East 4th Street regarding a sexual battery incident that had just occurred.

Upon arrival, officers learned the suspect initially followed the victim for several blocks. While following the victim, the suspect propositioned him and then grabbed his lower body. An altercation ensued, which resulted in the suspect striking the victim in the upper body before fleeing.

Detectives are releasing a photograph of the suspect from surveillance footage and video from the incident. The Long Beach Police Department requests information about this incident and/or the suspect’s identity.

The suspect is described as a male White or Hispanic (light complexion), approximately 18-25 years old, between 5’10” to 5’11” in height, with a thin build, short medium-length hair in a “comb over” style, and a light-colored mustache. The suspect wore a blue Dodgers T-shirt, light-colored pants, and black sandals. The suspect may have attended a party in the area before the assault.

Courtesy LBPD

To view a video of the suspect, click on the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-BbUCC7Lfk            

Anyone with information regarding the person responsible for these crimes should contact Sex Crimes Detective Monica Moore at (562) 570-5514 or Detective William Neal at (562) 570-5513.

Anonymous tips may be submitted through “LA Crime Stoppers” by calling 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), downloading the “P3 Tips” app to your smartphone (available at the Apple App store and Google Play), or visiting www.lacrimestoppers.org.

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