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Mexicans with HIV/AIDS lack treatment access

Government in 2019 created new health care entity



Roberto Navarro (Photo courtesy of Roberto Navarro)

MEXICO CITY — Roberto Navarro has been a dancer since he was 17. Jazz became his passion and he fell in love with classical dancing after he took many classes. And he began to teach four years later.

“I’m so happy when I teach dancing to my girls because they bring me so much joy, I feel like I help my girls to become better women, without noticing I’m some kind of a therapist,” Navarro told the Los Angeles Blade. 

He discovered the discipline of dancing in heels in 2014, which made him connect and explore more with his sexuality. He did, however, suffer a lot of bullying because of it.

Navarro — a 33-year-old gay man who is originally from Sahuayo de Morelos in Michoacán state —  currently owns a dance salon. Navarro said he started to become an entrepreneur, but it hasn’t been easy because of the pandemic. 

He was diagnosed with HIV in 2016. Navarro suffered from depression for several months after he learned his status.

“I woke up very overwhelmed in the morning thinking that I had to go to the hospital to make a long line of patients; to have blood drawn for fast screening tests,” he said. “We arrived at 7 in the morning and left until 1 in the afternoon.”

Navarro has been receiving treatment for almost five years, and he is still dancing.

“Subsequently, I went to my consultations every three or six months depending on my results,” he stated. “By the third month I was undetectable.”

Navarro started with Atripla, an antiretroviral drug he received through Mexico’s Seguro Popular, and he was undetectable a month later. 

A shortage of Atripla forced a change to Biktarby after President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in 2019 scrapped Seguro Popular and created the Health Institute for Wellbeing (INSABI). The pharmaceutical company Gilead has said there are many counterfeit versions of the drug on the market.

Seguro Popular in 2018 had almost 52 million beneficiaries. The National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy (CONEVAL) said INSABI at the end of 2020 had more than 34 million beneficiaries.

Antiretroviral drugs have been available in Mexico since 2003, although the Mexican health system is divided into various subsystems based on where one works.

  • Institute of Social Security and Services for State Workers (ISSSTE)
  • Mexican Institute of Social Security (IMS)
  • INSABI (Health Institute for Wellbeing) that was previously known as the Seguro Popular

They vary in the time it takes to receive medication and the time for CD4 viral load tests. The availability of appointments with infectious disease specialists varies in each of the three public health systems.

People with INSABI will take longer to get tests and have access to doctors. It must also be recognized that everyone, in theory, has the possibility of accessing medicines, but it also depends on the states in which they live. 

There are three health care systems in Mexico. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The number of people without access to healthcare in Mexico rose from 20 million to almost 36 million between 2018-2020. INSABI, more than a year after its creation, still does not completely cover the same amount as its predecessor.

INSABI is an independent agency through the Ministry of Health that aims to “provide and ensure the free provision of health services, medicines and other inputs associated with people without social security.” The General Health Law says it was to replace Seguro Popular, which was in place from 2004-2019.

“The situation for treatment right now, it’s quite complex, particularly because there have been many changes in the health department of Mexico, and this has to do with the fact that in 2003 when the Seguro Popular was established; there was an increase to comprehensive care for people living with HIV and resources for prevention strategies which are mainly handled through civil society organizations that obtained money from the government.” stated Ricardo Baruch, who has worked at the International Family Planning Federation for almost 15 years.

López,, who took office in 2018, sought to eliminate Seguro Popular, which was the mechanism by which access to antiretroviral drugs were given to most people living with HIV in the states with greater vulnerability. This change was done in theory to expand access for everyone, but the opposite happened.

There is less access due to the modification of purchasing mechanisms and a huge shortage throughout the country. Baruch says this situation has caused a treatment crisis across Mexico.

“The truth is that the Seguro Popular helped me a lot to have my treatments on time, what I do not like is that there is not enough staff to attend all the patients that we are waiting for our consultations,” said Erick Vasquez, a person who learned in February he is living with HIV.

Vasquez, 34, is an artist who works in Guadalajara and Playa del Carmen. 

Vasquez did not have health insurance like other people through IMS. He obtained access to Seguro Popular through an organization that supports people with HIV, but he has to wait until October for his first appointment.

Vasquez, who has a very low viral load, in March began a job through which he obtained IMS. He had access to his treatments through it.

He received three months worth of Biktarvy at the end of June; one prescription for each month. He said the drug is not difficult to obtain.

“I have not had any problem with the medication, it is not difficult to get it when you are on the insurance, but there is still a long time left until October,” said Vasquez.

The cost of the antiretroviral treatment in Mexico is approximately $650 per month, and one bottle has only 30 pills. 

“I have not had side effects, I have not had nausea, I don’t vomit, I take a pill daily, it is one every 24 hours,” Vasquez said. “I feel very well and I hope very soon to be undetectable.”

Members of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Mexico City who are living with HIV perform at Clínica Condesa, a public health clinic in Mexico City, on July 21, 2019. The clinic’s 20th anniversary coincided with the International AIDS Society’s Conference on HIV Science that took place in the Mexican capital. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Infrastructure over health 

Prevention resources were eliminated, and health resources today are used to finance the Felipe Ángeles International Airport at the Santa Lucía military base in Zumpango in Mexico state, a new refinery, the Mayan train and other major infrastructure projects. And this causes many people who want to access treatment not to receive them. It takes much 

The cost of the work, including the land connected with the Mexico City International Airport and various military facilities, is set at 82,136,100,000 Mexican pesos and there are provisions to serve 19.5 million passengers the first year of operations, according to a report from the Secretariat of National Defense (SEDENA). 

There are, on the other hand, far fewer HIV tests and this shortage has led to a much higher arrival of late-stage HIV cases and even AIDS in hospitals. This trend is particularly serious among transgender women and men who have sex with men.

“Here in Mexico we concentrate the HIV pandemic, and that we are at a time when this issue of shortages has not stabilized, that there is already more clarity in purchases, but it is well known that all these changes in health systems continue for a year over the years they cause the situation to be increasingly fragile and in the matter of migrants that previously there was certainty so that they could access medicines through the Seguro Popular, now there is a legal limbo for which in some states it depends: on the states, the clinic or social worker; whether or not they give you medications,” said Baruch.

“If you are not a resident or a national here in Mexico, this is a matter won for people in transit seeking political asylum or who had stayed in Mexico,” he added.

Migrants lack access to HIV treatment

Mexico is located between the three regions with the world’s highest rates of HIV: the Caribbean, Central America, and the U.S. This has been used as a foundation for a culture of hatred against migrants, according to Siobhan McManus, a biologist, philosopher, and researcher at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Sciences and Humanities of the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

The lack of opportunities, violence and climate change that forces people whose livelihoods depend on agriculture to abandon their homes prompts migration from Central America.

Most migrants — LGBTQ or otherwise — experience violence once they arrive in Mexico.

Migrants wait for humanitarian visas at the Ciudad Hidalgo port of entry in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, on Jan. 30, 2019. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Chiapas and other states have created an extensive network of clinics known by the Spanish acronym CAPASITS (Centro Ambulatorio para la Prevención y Atención en SIDA e Infecciones de Transmisión Sexual) that are specific HIV and STD units in major towns. They are often within close proximity to most people’s homes.

Sonora and Chihuahua states, which border the U.S., often have such clinics in only one or two cities. This lack of access means people will have to travel up to six hours to access these treatments.

People who have already been receiving treatment for a long time were previously given up to three months of treatment. They now must travel every month to receive their medications because of the shortages.

PrEP available in Mexico

The shortage of medical drugs for people who already live with HIV is a current issue for the Mexican government, but they have made free PrEP available for those who want to prevent themselves from the virus. 

Ivan Plascencia,  a 24-years old, who lives in Guadalajara, the capital of Jalisco state , has been using PrEP for several years since he became sexually active and he never had any complaints about the medication. Plascencia instead recommends his close friends to take advantage of this prevention drug that is available in one of the CAPASITS where he lives.

Post-pandemic screening tests

There are an estimated 260,000 people in Mexico who are living with HIV. Upwards of 80 percent of them knew their status before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The number of new cases that were detected in 2020 were 60 percent less than the previous year, but this figure does not mean HIV rates have decreased. 

In Jalisco, which is one of Mexico’s most populous states with upwards of 8 million people, there was a 40 percent increase in positive cases in 2020 compared to 2019. This increase has put a strain on service providers.



Claudia Sheinbaum makes history as Mexico’s first female president

LGBTQ+ officials throughout Latin America applaud milestone



Mexican President-elect Claudia Sheinbaum (Photo via Claudia Sheinbaum's X page)

MEXICO CITY — Former Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum on Sunday became the first woman elected president of Mexico.

Sheinbaum, a scientist who is a member of outgoing President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s leftist Morena party, defeated Xóchitl Gálvez of the opposition National Action Party and Jorge Álvarez Máynez of the Citizens’ Movement. She will also be Mexico’s first Jewish president.

“Thank you to the people of Mexico,” said Sheinbaum on her X account. “This is your triumph, this June 2 we once again made history.”

Mexican voters elected Sheinbaum less than a year after Mexico City hosted an LGBTQ+ and intersex rights conference that the LGBTQ+ Victory Institute co-sponsored. The election also took place against the backdrop of rampant cartel violence in Michoacán and other Mexican states. 

Sheinbaum before the election released a policy paper that reiterated her support for LGBTQ+ rights in Mexico. The platform, among other things, reiterated “absolute respect for diverse gender identities” and pledged to create “public policies to (end impunity) and to eradicate hate crimes and violence against LGBTIQ+ communities because of gender and sexual orientation.”

“Without diversity, there is no democracy,” read the paper.

(Courtesy photo)

Mexican Congresswoman Salma Luévano, who is transgender, is among those who congratulated Sheinbaum. Claudia López, the former mayor of the Colombian capital of Bogotá who is a lesbian, in a post to her X account described Sheinbaum’s election as a “cultural and political transformation” for Mexico.

“Claudia Sheinbaum has on her shoulders the largest popular mandate in Mexican history and the necessary institutional equilibrium that depends so much on her talent and style of leadership,” said López. “I am sure that her human, professional, scientific training and her feminine empathy will allow her to honor history and her role in it.”

The Washington Blade will update this article.

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Authorities in Puerto Vallarta abruptly shutter LGBTQ hotel

The hotel’s American owner, Paul Crist, is known for his support of the LGBTQ community. The shutdown came days before Puerto Vallarta Pride



Mexican police stood outside Hotel Mercurio May 17 as items such as patio furniture were removed after they shut it down. (Screenshot/PR Vagabond)

By Ed Walsh, BAR Contributor | PUERTO VALLARTA – Mexican authorities abruptly and without warning shut down a longtime LGBTQ hotel in Puerto Vallarta Friday night, leaving some guests with their belongings tossed in the street.

Hotel Mercurio had been in operation for 22 years in the heart of the resort city’s gay-popular Zona Romantica neighborhood, south of downtown.

The hotel’s American owner, Paul Crist, is well known for his work in support of the LGBTQ community. The shutdown came days before Puerto Vallarta Pride, scheduled to run May 22-26.

The May 17 forced closure was apparently the result of a long simmering lawsuit stemming from the sale of the property from a German owner to Crist in 2002. In an open letter published by the Puerto Vallarta LGBTQ publication Out and About Puerto Vallarta on Sunday, May 19, Crist wrote that his financial issues cascaded as a result of the previous hotel owner granting him a two-year mortgage to pay off part of the $400,000 purchase price.

Crist wrote that the owner eventually refused to give him the receipts he needed to take the tax deduction for the mortgage payments. Crist believes that may have been done so that the previous owner could avoid paying taxes on those payments.

“I tried to renegotiate regarding his willingness to follow tax law, but he was adamant,” Crist wrote. “And I refused to pay without a factura [invoice] for each payment. I tried to report him to SAT, the Mexican tax authorities, and nothing ever came of it. And then he sued me for non-payment in 2005.”

Crist stated that he owns everything in the property, including the furniture and appliances that were removed from the hotel, and has instructed his hotel manager to sell everything and distribute the proceeds to his 24 employees.

Crist added that his attorney believes that the eviction was carried out illegally and is drawing up papers to fight it but Crist, 66, said he was not optimistic he would prevail.

“I have failed my staff most of all,” Crist wrote. “I have failed my hotel clients. I have failed my community. I have failed the people I love the most, especially my husband, who I had hoped to leave a great legacy. I feel deeply humiliated, very, very tired, and very much a failure.”

Jorge Gonzalez, who had worked for two decades at the hotel’s bar affectionately called “Jorge’s Bar,” told the Bay Area Reporter that there was no warning about the closure.

“We are just a little in shock,” Gonzalez said in a Facebook voice message. “Everybody’s dealing with this in their own way.”

Hotel Mercurio, in the heart of the LGBTQ-popular Zona Romantica in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
(Photo by Michael Williams)

He said multiple police officers first approached the hotel’s receptionist and the word circulated back to him at the bar that they were locking the hotel and everyone must go. He said they took everything out of the hotel, including the refrigerators. Photos and videos on social media show furniture, including mattresses, being removed from the hotel.

Gonzalez said it reminded him of the last scene in the “Friends” TV show where everything was emptied from the apartment where most of the series was set.

Another longtime Mercurio employee, Briam Robles, told the B.A. R. that the shutdown happened on his day off and he didn’t know if he would get severance pay.

“I was awaiting for the answer of the hotel, afterwards will see what I gonna do,” he texted to the B.A.R. over a Facebook direct message.

San Francisco resident Michael Williams, who was visiting Puerto Vallarta, witnessed the scene outside the hotel when he went to stop by on Saturday morning to say hello to his friends who work there.

“I thought they were remodeling. Then I learned they had closed Mercurio without warning. All guests and belongings were put on the street. The owner’s keys were confiscated. I went by and saw men tearing down everything in the lobby and the kitchen was completely gone.”

A guest with the handle PR Vagabond wrote on that he was staying at the hotel when the closure happened. He had paid in advance when he arrived at the hotel, with four more days left on his stay when he was told to get out. He posted photos of the police action on Tripadvisor.

“Dozens of people were removing everything, furniture, washing machine, everything, and guests were simply told to move out immediately. Police were supervising the entire process,” he wrote.

In a Facebook post Sunday afternoon, Crist linked to his open letter. He wrote in part, “I will not be on social media from here forward, will not be in public at all, and will not be responding to messages and phone calls.

“If you wish, and are able to help my staff, and by that I mean some money, please contact Gabriel Bojorquez by Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp (+52) 322 135 8048,” he added. “Please do not flood him with messages of concern and help if he needs ‘someone to talk to.’

“And please, no need to respond to this post,” Crist wrote. “I appreciate your love and concern. But I cannot respond right now.”


The preceding article was previously published by the Bay Area Reporter and is republished with permission.

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Mexican Senate passes bill to ban conversion therapy

Measure passed by 77-4 vote margin



Mexico's Presidential Palace in Mexico City on July 18, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

MEXICO CITY — The Mexican Senate on Thursday approved a bill that would ban so-called conversion therapy in the country.

Yaaj México, a Mexican LGBTQ+ rights group, on X noted the measure passed by a 77-4 vote margin with 15 abstentions.  The Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Mexico’s congress, approved the bill last month that, among other things, would subject conversion therapy practitioners to between two and six years in prison and fines.

The Senate on its X account described conversion therapy as “practices that have incentivized the violation of human rights of the LGBTTTIQ+ community.”

“The Senate moved (to) sanction therapies that impede or annul a person’s orientation or gender identity,” it said. “There are aggravating factors when the practices are done to minors, older adults and people with disabilities.”

Mexico City and the states of Oaxaca, Quintana Roo, Jalisco and Sonora are among the Mexican jurisdictions that have banned the discredited practice. 

The Senate in 2022 passed a conversion therapy ban bill, but the House of Deputies did not approve it. It is not immediately clear whether President Andrés Manuel López Obrador supports the ban.

Canada, Brazil, Belgium, Germany, France, and New Zealand are among the countries that ban conversion therapy. Virginia, California, and D.C. are among the U.S. jurisdictions that prohibit the practice for minors.  

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Transfeminicide violence in Mexico: At least five Trans women killed in first two weeks of 2024

Activists have criticized public officials over hate speech



(Photo by Haarón Álvarez/New Gay Times)

A Spanish version of this article can be found here.

MEXICO CITY — Gaby Ortiz, renowned Trans stylist in Hidalgo, an unidentified Trans woman in Tlaquepaque, Jalisco, Vanesa, a Trans woman in Coatzacoalcos, Miriam Ríos activist and Trans commissioner of the Movimiento Ciudadano political party in Michoacán, and Samantha Fonseca, a Trans activist and human rights defender in Mexico City, have been murdered in the first 15 days of the year.

People belonging to LGBTTTIQ+ groups protested outside the National Palace against the escalation of violence against Trans people and hate crimes.

(Photo by Haarón Álvarez/New Gay Times)

Victoria Sámano, a Trans activist, denounced the hate speeches of leaders, officials and public representatives targeting Trans people and urged the president to condemn this violence.

“We demand that, in your capacity as representative of this country, you take a stand against the violence that Trans people experience.” – Victoria Sámano, Trans activist and founder of LLECA (Listening to the Street)

(Photo by Haarón Álvarez/New Gay Times)

The National Observatory of Hate Crimes against LGBTQI+ People defines hate crimes as culturally founded and systematically and socially widespread behaviors of contempt against a person or group of people based on negative prejudice or stigma related to an undeserved disadvantage, and which has the effect of harming your fundamental rights and freedoms, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

(Photo by Haarón Álvarez/New Gay Times)

“We are not only demonstrating for these deaths, we also demand that the Comprehensive Trans Law be approved as a matter of urgency, which seeks to influence education, housing, health and work for trans people. We demand that all these legislative initiatives that favor people of sexual diversity be unblocked. And that Morena, even though the majority in the Chamber of Deputies and Senate, have remained silent, they have not done anything, they do not have a clear position against violence towards LGBTTTIQ+ people … even when they have boasted of being a left-wing and progressive party throughout the 6-year period and that they support vulnerable populations.” – Victoria Sámano, Trans activist and founder of LLECA (Listening to the Street) 

(Photo by Haarón Álvarez/New Gay Times)

This wave of transfemicides occurs in a context of escalating violence and attacks against LGBTTTIQ+ people, including activist and public figures such as Nicté Chávez or Paola Suárez, and the proliferation of hate speech against Trans women and LGBTTTIQ+ people by public officials. According to data from Letra Ese, in 2023 there were 58 murders of LGBTTTIQ+ people, 35 were Trans women.

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Puerto Vallarta’s LGBTQ center SETAC closes

SETAC Executive Director Paco Arjona did not respond to requests for comment on the status of the Puerto Vallarta LGBTQ health center



Puerto Vallarta's LGBTQ center, SETAC clinic shown here in 2022. (Photo Credit: SETAC Puerto Vallarta)

By Ed Walsh, BAR Contributor | PUERTO VALLARTA, Mexico – Puerto Vallarta’s LGBTQ center, SETAC, which focused on health and wellness and ran the city’s PrEP program, effectively closed late last month amid financial struggles and allegations from employees of mistreatment and management.

Meanwhile, gay business owners in the Mexican city have already launched an effort to raise money to continue to provide some of the services offered by the center.

SETAC stands for Solidaridad Ed Thomas Asociacion Civil. It is named for Ed Thomas, a former Bostonian and one of the center’s founders who retired in Puerto Vallarta. The center was founded in 2009.

Paul Crist, owner of Hotel Mercurio, is one of those leading the effort to have the center continue services.

“Our first priority will be to continue providing PrEP medication (pre-exposure prophylaxis) and the required laboratory testing to the approximately 700 individuals that were on the now-terminated program at SETAC,” Crist wrote on his Facebook page Saturday, January 6.

“A group of business and community leaders, including myself, are working very quickly to put services in place and to set up a new nonprofit association,” Crist added. “There is still much work ahead but we’ve made tremendous progress in just a few days. We have a plan for moving forward, an initial budget, a preliminary draft (still in development) for organization statutes, and mechanisms for patients and the community to contact us.”

Emails to SETAC, including to Executive Director Paco Arjona, were not returned by press time. After the publication of this story online, Arjona responded to a Facebook message.

“SETAC is not closed, you will hear soon about all, gracias,” Arjona wrote.

SETAC Executive Director Paco Arjona, shown here in 2018, did not respond to requests for comment on the status of the Puerto Vallarta LGBTQ health center.
(Photo Credit: Ed Walsh)

Business owner and longtime SETAC supporter Mike Owens volunteered to restructure the organization last year. He told the Bay Area Reporter this week that he left his work with the organization.

“Unfortunately, I resigned from my involvement with SETAC two or three months ago,” Owens wrote in response to a Facebook message from the B.A.R. “So, I’ll have to refer you back to Paco (Arjona), the executive director of SETAC. I think what you will find is he will tell you SETAC is not closed. I will just say that there are a lot of things happening behind the scenes, but it’s not my place to discuss publicly.”

An open letter from SETAC employees that was published last week in the LGBTQ magazine Out and About Puerto Vallarta read in part:

“Some of the staff were fired, others decided to resign due to lack of payment, and the staff who continue to have worked, have done so without receiving their respective biweekly payments,” the statement read. “Neither those who resigned nor those who were fired have received the corresponding compensation. There are many other problems as well, all of which made for a difficult and harmonious workplace.

“This unfortunate situation was triggered as a result of what we think is a lack of direction, decision making that was incongruent with the situation, absence of the board of directors, and lack of financial resources. The entire team actively expressed interest and concern in this regard for more than one year, with team members proposing ideas and activities for fundraising, which were sabotaged with actions and threats by the director and legal representative,” the statement read.

In his Facebook post, Crist linked to an article in Out and About Puerto Vallarta that noted that a temporary space has been donated inside Thrive IV & MedSpa on Basilio Badillo 277-A, in the Zona Romantica neighborhood so that the medically supervised PrEP treatments can continue. Organizers hoped that that temporary space would be operating by this week.

In a news release issued January 6, Jet De La Isla, who runs a gay hostel and boat tour and administers the very popular Puerto Vallarta Gays Facebook page, wrote on Facebook in response to a post reposted by Crist and gay other business leaders:

“If you were previously enrolled in the SETAC program you can use the following WhatsApp number 322 128 67 93 and our contact form to follow up with your appointments. New enrollees can also use the contact form to be signed up for new registrations.

“Current patients will be asked for a $300 MXN ($18 U.S.) monthly optional donation, as it was with the previous program,” he added.

The post included that people can sign up to volunteer, donate, or stay informed at

The Facebook post stated that for U.S. donors Casa JoJo is a tax deduction because the foundation is headquartered in Texas and is a registered nonprofit under section 501(c)3 of the U.S. Tax Code. When donating people should mention “Vallarta’s Gay+ Health Clinic.” People can donate using the one-time donate button found at the bottom of the website landing page.

The post concluded by listing the effort’s organizing committee members: Mikel Joseph Alvarez, treasurer of the new group and owner of Thrive IV & MedSpa; Crist of Hotel Mercurio; Jet De La Isla; Owens, who owns Studs Bear Bar; Casa Cupula owner Don Pickens; interim manager Fer Bolanos Cruz; and medical advisers Dr. Alain Hernandez and Dr. Galileo Vargas. The post noted major support from Tom Viola, executive director of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.


The preceding article was previously published by the Bay Area Reporter and is republished with permission.

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Non-binary judge found stabbed to death in their Mexican home

Jesús Ociel Baena was Latin America’s first nonbinary judge. They were found dead in their home on Nov. 13, 2023



Jesús Ociel Baena was Latin America's first nonbinary judge. They were found dead in their home in Mexico's Aguascalientes state on Nov. 13, 2023. (Photo credit: Baena/Facebook)

AGUASCALIENTES, Mexico – Authorities in Mexico’s Aguascalientes state on Monday found Latin America’s first nonbinary judge dead in their home.

The Associated Press reported Jesús Ociel Baena’s body was discovered next to another person who media reports and an LGBTQ rights group identified as their partner. State prosecutor Jesús Figueroa Ortega told reporters during a press conference the two victims showed signs they had been stabbed.

Aguascalientes state is located in central Mexico.

The AP reported Baena in October 2022 became a magistrate on Aguascalientes’ electoral court. Baena in June was one of the first people in Mexico to receive a passport with a nonbinary gender marker.  

Violence based on gender identity and sexual orientation remain commonplace in Mexico. 

The AP reported Baena in the weeks before their death had received death threats. Federal Security Secretary Rosa Icela Rodríguez on Monday said it remains unclear if the murders were “a homicide or an accident.”

The New Gay Times, the Washington Blade’s media partner in Mexico, reported LGBTQ rights groups across the country have demanded “a definitive and specialized investigation” into Baena’s murder. Thousands of people on Monday who took part in a march in Mexico City demanded justice for Baena.

“We are and will be there for you, dear Ociel,” said Casa Refugio Paola Buenrostro, a shelter in Mexico City that Casa de las Muñecas Tiresas, a local transgender rights group, runs, on Monday in a post to its Facebook page. “Your fight will not be in vein.”

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Mexico City hosts LGBTQ+, intersex rights conference

LGBTQ+ Victory Institute co-organized 3-day event



LGBTQ+ Victory Institute President Annise Parker, second from left, with Mexican Congresswoman Salma Luévano, second from right, in Mexico City on July 20, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Editor’s note: International News Editor Michael K. Lavers was on assignment in Mexico City from July 17-23.

MEXICO CITY — More than 400 people from around the world attended an LGBTQ+ and intersex rights conference that took place last week in Mexico City.

Jessica Stern, the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ+ and intersex rights, and Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the independent U.N. expert on LGBTQ+ and intersex issues, are among those who spoke at the LGBTI Political Leaders from the Americas and the Caribbean Conference that the LGBTQ+ Victory Institute co-sponsored. Maryland state Del. Gabriel Acevero (D-Montgomery County), Massachusetts state Rep. Jack Lewis, Brazilian Congresswomen Erika Hilton and Duda Salabert, Mexican Congresswoman Salma Luévano, Venezuelan National Assemblywoman Tamara Adrián, former Colombian Congressman Mauricio Toro, former Peruvian Congressman Alberto de Belaunde, Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality Executive Director Kenita Placide and Fundación Triángulo (Spain) President José María Núñez Blanco are among those who also participated.

Victory Institute spokesperson Pita Juárez noted to the Washington Blade the 438 people who attended the conference came from the U.S., Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Afghanistan, China, Panama, Paraguay, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti and Honduras. 

The following groups from across the region co-organized the conference along with the Victory Institute. 

• Yaaj México

• Caribe Afirmativo (Colombia)

• Diversidad Dominicana (Dominican Republic)

• Somos CDC (Honduras)

• Promsex (Peru)

• Vote LGBT+ (Brazil)

Stern in her speech at the conference on July 20 noted the U.S. supported the conference and helped organizers cover some attendees’ transportation costs.

‘Fight for global equality is more important than ever’

The conference took place against the backdrop of the passage of anti-LGBTQ+ laws in several U.S. states and in countries around the world and persistent violence based on gender identity and sexual orientation throughout Latin America. 

Cubans last September approved a new family code that extended marriage and adoption rights to same-sex couples. (Brenda Díaz, a Transgender woman with HIV who participated in an anti-government protest in the country’s Artemisa province on July 11, 2021, is serving a 14-year prison sentence.) Barbados, St. Kitts and Nevis and Antigua and Barbuda over the last year have decriminalized consensual same-sex sexual relations.

“Our fight for global equality is more important than ever,” said Victory Institute President Annise Parker on July 20 when she opened the conference. “We have always known that we have had much farther to go, but we are experiencing a backlash across the globe.” 

“In the United States a record number of anti-LGBTQ bills were introduced and passed last year,” she noted. “LGBTQ+ lawmakers like (Oklahoma state Rep.) Mauree Turner and (Montana state Rep.) Zooey Zephyr were censured and expelled from their offices in the United States, but hate has no borders.”

Parker in her speech said “efforts to discriminate against trans people are increasing” in the U.K. and “we’ve seen an uptick in identity-based harassment” in Latin America. Parker also noted Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in May signed his country’s Anti-Homosexuality that contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality.”

“This is a moment of alarm; it is also a rallying cry,” said Parker. “The best way to push back is to put LGBTQI+ people into those halls and offices to stand up and speak for us. They’re our anecdotes to hate.”

Parker in her speech also noted LGBTQ+ and intersex rights advances in the Americas over the last year. They include the election of Hilton and Dudabert, who are both Trans, to the Brazilian Congress last October, the five LGBTQ+ people and a nonbinary person who won their respective races for the Colombian House of Representatives in May 2022 and the Mexican Senate’s vote to ban so-called conversion therapy in the country.

“We can make progress,” said Parker.

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Marriage equality now legal across Mexico

Country’s Supreme Court in 2015 ruled legal bans ‘discriminatory’



The Mexican flag (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

CIUDAD VICTORIA, Mexico — Same-sex couples can now legally marry across Mexico after lawmakers in Tamaulipas state on Wednesday approved a marriage equality bill.

Mexico City in 2010 became the first jurisdiction in the country to allow same-sex couples to legally marry. The Mexican Supreme Court in 2015 ruled state laws that ban same-sex marriage are “discriminatory.”

Lawmakers in Tamaulipas, which borders Texas, on Wednesday by a 23-12 margin voted to amend the state’s Civil Code to allow same-sex couples to marry. Legislators in Guerrero state in southern Mexico on Tuesday approved a marriage equality bill.

Mexico is the latest Latin American country to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.

Voters in Cuba last month approved a new family code that includes marriage equality. 

Same-sex couples can legally marry in Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil. Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Aruba, Curaçao, Bonaire, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Barthélemy, St. Martin, Sint Maarten, Sint Eustatius and Saba also have marriage equality.

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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



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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Five Calif. Congress members visit Tijuana shelters for LGBTQ+ asylum seekers

Delegation traveled to Mexican border city on May 6



Members of Congress and LGBTQ+ activists on May 6, 2022, visited Casa Arcoíris, a shelter for LGBTQ asylum seekers in Tijuana, Mexico. (Photo courtesy of Kelly O'Keeffe)

TIJUANA, Mexico — Five members of Congress from California last week visited two shelters for LGBTQ+ asylum seekers in Tijuana.

Congress members Mark Takano, Raul Ruiz, Juan Vargas, Katie Porter and Sara Jacobs on May 6 toured Jardín de las Mariposas and Casa Arcoíris.

The Council for Global Equality organized the trip.

Chair Mark Bromley, Co-chair Julie Dorf and Senior Policy Fellow Bierne Roose-Snyder traveled to Tijuana along with Organization of Refuge, Asylum and Migration Executive Director Steve Roth. Representatives of the Transgender Law Center and the Refugee Alliance also met with the group.

The trip began in San Diego.

“As we work to fix our broken immigration system, improve border efficiency, and restore asylum at our borders, we must take a humanitarian approach and proactively protect all vulnerable populations lawfully seeking asylum in our country,” said Ruiz in a statement his office issued before the trip. “The LGBTQI community is one of the most vulnerable to face persecution, violence, and abuse in their home countries, throughout their journey to our borders, and in detention centers. As a trained humanitarian, I am going to assess their vulnerabilities and help provide humanitarian protections that are consistent with our American laws and their human rights.” 

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