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Brazil’s Supreme Court rules homophobia punishable by prison

Justices on Monday issued near unanimous decision



Pride flags fly over Ipanema Beach in Rio de Janeiro on March 20, 2022. Brazil's Supreme Federal Court has ruled homophobia is now punishable with up to five years in prison. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

BRASÍLIA, Brazil — The Brazilian Supreme Federal Court this week ruled homophobia now punishable with up to five years in prison.

The justices on Monday ruled by a 9-1 margin. Their decision equates homophobia to racism in terms of prison time.

The Supreme Federal Court in 2019 criminalized homophobia and transphobia. The Brazilian Association of Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Travestis, Transsexuals and Intersex People petitioned for additional protections and penalties.

“Such a decision brings legal certainty and reinforces the court’s understanding with regard to the principle of equality and nondiscrimination,” said the National LGBTI+ Alliance, a Brazilian LGBTQ+ and intersex rights group, in a statement. “It is an important step in the civilizing process and in the fight against hatred in Brazilian society.”

Congresswoman Erika Hilton, who is Transgender, in a tweet described the ruling as a “victory against LGBTphobia.”

The Supreme Federal Court issued its ruling less than eight months after President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva took office.

His predecessor, former President Jair Bolsonaro, faced sharp criticism over his rhetoric against LGBTQ+ and intersex Brazilians and other groups. 

Bolsonaro, among other things, encouraged fathers to beat their sons if they come out as gay and claimed people who are vaccinated against COVID-19 are at increased risk for AIDS. The country’s Federal Police last August urged prosecutors to charge Bolsonaro with incitement over his COVID-19 claim.


South America

‘Las Locas del 73’ documents historic LGBTQ+ rights protest in Chile

Demonstration took place months before 1973 coup



'Las Locas del 73' (Photo courtesy of Victor Hugo Robles)

By ESTEBAN RIOSECO | SANTIAGO, Chile — In a year of deep reflection and commemoration of two crucial moments in Chile’s history, “Las Locas del 73” documents the 50th anniversary of the country’s first gay rights march that took place months before the 1973 coup.

Victor Hugo Robles, who is also known as El Che de los Gays, co-directed the documentary with documentarian Carolina Espinoza that Sociedad Sonora, a production company, helped release in Chile and Spain on April 22, the 50th anniversary of the protest. The documentary has proven to be a resounding success, and film festivals in several countries are planning to screen it in the coming months.

This documentary is a doubly significant tribute. 

It not only tells the courageous story of a group of gay and Transgender Chileans who, on April 22, 1973, protested against social discrimination and police repression, but also highlights the intricate connection between this struggle and the traumatic coup that forever changed Chile’s destiny.

Raquel, Eva, Larguero, Romané, José Caballo, Vanesa, Fresia Soto, Confort, Natacha, Peggy Cordero and Gitana were the protagonists of what the media at the time described as the scandalous demonstration that took place in Santiago’s Plaza de Armas, a commercial area that families frequented on Sundays, on that fall Sunday afternoon. The coup took place less than five months later, on Sept. 11, 1973. 

Most LGBTQ+ Chileans at that time were in the closet.

Discrimination was so widespread that nobody dared to publicly disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity. (Consensual same-sex sexual relations were punishable with prison until their decriminalization in the country’s penal code in 1999.) Police at that time routinely raided private meetings of LGBTQ+ people and “indecency” arrests were commonplace.  

While the media at the time highly publicized the iconic protest, it was something of an urban myth among LGBTQ+ Chileans until the 1990s. It was said a “group of crazy women” had staged a rebellion in the 1970s, but there was no clarity about the exact date. It seemed to be a story without protagonists, a local legend subject to exaggerations and reversions.

It was this ambiguity that aroused Robles’ curiosity, and he began to investigate and reconstruct the episode.

“I heard many stories that there had been a gay protest during the time of Salvador Allende, but no one was certain,” Robles told the Washington Blade. “I spent a lot of time researching this protest. It took me a long time. I would say it took me more than a year, almost two years to find the exact moment because I had to go to the newspapers of that time. You had to ask for them at the library and go through them newspaper by newspaper, month by month, and it took a long time to fetch the newspapers from the warehouse.” 

He added that “everything is now digitized, but at that time nothing (was), so I started to check the newspaper because everything was in the newspaper itself.” 

“Everyone talks about Clarín, which was the most important newspaper of the time, with a huge circulation. It was a popular media outlet; with sarcastic, direct, ironic, humorous language,” said Robles. “Then I started to look at Clarín, month by month, in 1970, 1971 and 1972.”

Victor Hugo Robles is a Chilean activist, journalist and writer (Photo courtesy of Victor Hugo Robles)

Robles told the Blade he was already giving up in his search when a friend gave him a clue that would end up uncovering valuable information for the reconstruction of the history of the Chilean LGBTQ+ movement. 

“I was almost giving up until a friend gave me the tip about Paloma magazine, which was the leftist magazine of the time, a communist magazine, and that’s where the protest had come out,” said Robles. “He remembered having read it there.”

He recalled his expectations increased again after this revelation because he knew that that magazine had fewer editions — one per month, which increased the chances of finding what he was looking for more quickly. 

“That’s when I came across the news. It said: ‘Homosexuals on the offensive.’ A very small article and … they pointed out the exact date. That demonstration, that protest, then appeared and it was dated Sunday, April 22, 1973.″

“Immediately, with the date in hand, I went to Clarín newspaper and, indeed, it was there. It was on the front page two days after the protest took place, on April 24, 1973,″ he recalled emotionally.

Headlines in Clarín, a left-wing Chilean newspaper (Photo courtesy of Victor Hugo Robles)

That front page to which the Chilean journalist referred exposed the existing homophobia in society. 

“Homosexuals ask for the moon,” read Clarín’s headline.

Clarín was a progressive, leftist newspaper that supported President Salvador Allende.

The newspaper’s slogan proclaimed it was “on the people’s side.” Pinochet’s dictatorship immediately shut down Clarín after the coup.

“The loose mares, lost madwomen, anxious for publicity, launched headlong, met to demand that the authorities give them a chance, a shot and a side for their deviations,” read the Clarín article about the protest. 

The police did not show up, even though the meeting had been well publicized.

Vea magazine cover (Photo courtesy of Victor Hugo Robles)

The media reports continued with more insidiousness.

“At first the sodomites, believing that the police contingent would fall on them at every moment, were cautious. But they quickly loosened their braids … and launched themselves, demonstrating that the freedom they demand is nothing more than licentiousness. Homosexuals, among other things, want legislation to allow them to get married and do a thousand and one things without police persecution. What a mess that would be. No wonder an old man proposed spraying them with kerosene and throwing a lit match at them,” wrote Clarín.

Newspaper reports said mothers covered their children’s eyes so that “they would not witness such a horrendous spectacle.”

But it was not only in Clarín. 

“I realized that it had been covered by quite a few media outlets, by the Puro Chile newspaper, for example. It also appeared later on the cover of Vea magazine, which was very important at the time,” said Robles.

That demonstration marked a turning point in the struggle for the rights of sexual minorities in Chile, a path that remains relevant and valid to this day. The film pays tribute to the brave activists who, for the first time in Chilean history, stood up against social discrimination and social repression.

Human Rights Subsecretary Xavier Altamirano, left, with La Medallita, organizer of the ‘Las Locas del 73’ protest. (Photo courtesy of Victor Hugo Robles)

La Medallita, Brenda, Marco Ruiz and Marcela Dimonti are among those who narrate the documentary. 

Dimonti, besides being a prominent figure in the struggle for LGBTQ+ rights, was a prisoner inside the National Stadium after the coup. 

La Medallita shows a photo of themself and other ‘Las Locas del 73’ protesters (Courtesy photo)

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South America

Far-right political coalition takes control of Chile’s constitutional council

Activists fear LGBTQ, intersex rights could be at risk



More than 100,000 people attended a Pride protest in Santiago, Chile, on June 25, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Gonzalo Velásquez)

BY ESTEBAN RÍOSECO | VALPARAÍSO, Chile — In a twist that raises concerns about LGBTQ+ and intersex rights in Chile, the body charged with writing the country’s new constitution is now under the control of a far-right political coalition that former presidential candidate José Antonio Kast leads.

Compared to the progressive approach that had characterized the previous Constitutional Convention, the change in the composition and the Republican Party’s control of the constitutional council raises serious concerns. 

The former council demonstrated a willingness to address equality and nondiscrimination, including the rights of LGBTQ+ and intersex people. With the Republican Party in control, however, there have been warnings of potential pushback on hate speech and constitutional protections for queer people.

“The current constitutional process is the last effort to replace the current constitution, which, with all the modifications it has undergone, is still the one built during the dictatorship and reformed with the rules established by the dictatorship,” Gaspar Domínguez, an openly gay man who was the vice president of the previous Constitutional Convention, told the Washington Blade.

Chile’s LGBTQ+ and intersex community for years has been fighting for recognition and equal right, and it is increasingly fearful the Republican Party could thwart these efforts. Marriage equality, nondiscrimination and recognition of gender identity could be at risk.

Chileans in December will have to return to the polls to approve or reject the constitutional council’s proposal. If rejected, the current constitution that dates back to Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship and caused widespread social upheaval in 2019 will remain in force.

Domínguez explained “the text that will be submitted to plebiscite at the end of the year will be the result of the deliberation and voting on the amendments of the constitutional council, which is composed mostly by conservative sectors of the Chilean society that opposed the decriminalization of sodomy in 1999, opposed the divorce law in 2004, that have opposed same-sex marriage bills over the last two decades and that have been linked to the most conservative sectors of the right, to the Catholic and Evangelical churches.”

“Considering this political scenario, it is a real option that the proposal to be voted on at the end of the year constitutes a threat to the civilizational advances that have allowed the LGBTIQ+ community to grow in equality,” he noted.

Gaspar Domínguez made history in Chile when he was elected as vice president of the Constitutional Convention. (Courtesy photo)

María Pardo, a constitutional lawyer with “Unity for Chile,” the pro-government bloc within the council that champions queer issues, told the Blade “we are in a political context that has led us to write a shorter constitution and with a much more conservative and majority opposition than the previous period that wants to go backwards or not to advance on these issues for different reasons that they use. They consider, for example, that historically oppressed groups enjoy privileges. Faced with sectors (that have) a clear anti-women and anti-sexual diversity agenda, we have to confront them.”

María Pardo is a respected lawyer who specializes in constitutional law (Photo courtesy of María Pardo)

Pardo’s coalition did not present amendments with explicit references to LGBTQ+ and intersex people because “we did not present aspects as specific as in the convention, but we did present aspects tending to nondiscrimination and recognition of historically vulnerable groups. In this sense, we consider fundamental the development of the so feared, by the right wing, Comprehensive Sexual Education (ESI), as the basis for children and adolescents to feel integrated in safe spaces of development and conversation, leaving out discriminatory stereotypes. In this sense, we insist that comprehensive sexual education is a human right and not a sole and exclusive responsibility of families.” 

Gloria Hutt, a constitutional advisor for Evópoli, a center-right political party that supports LGBTQ and intersex rights, indicated the nondiscrimination amendment is not at risk. 

“My impression is that it should indeed be approved in the plenary, because it is an obvious right the protection of people’s rights and an element of nondiscrimination,” she told the Blade. “At least, I don’t have the impression that it is at risk.” 

Gloria Hutt is a politician from the traditional Chilean right who has positioned herself as an ally of queer rights (Photo courtesy of Gloria Hutt)

Hutt, who was a former minister in President Sebastián Piñera’s government, argues the “lack of mention of specific groups” in the draft constitution “has to do mainly with the fact that the identification of elements of inclusion or nondiscrimination are very many. So, in the constitution, what is left is the general principle and not the specific mention of each one of the groups. That is why nondiscrimination is maintained as a principle, but without specifying the type of discrimination, but of course, sexual orientation.”

Fundación Iguales, a Chilean LGBTQ+ and intersex rights organization, said they are closely watching the debate over the new constitution and how it will impact queer people.

“We are monitoring the work with concern,” Mauricio Henríquez, the group’s legal director, told the Blade. “Extreme conservative discourses could directly harm the rights of LGBTI+ people.”

Mauricio Henriquez told the Washington Blade Fundación Iguales closely watching the current constitutional process. (Courtesy photo)

Henríquez added “historically, the conservative ultra-right has opposed the recognition and protection of the rights of sexual and gender diversity. They were against the Civil Union Agreement, equal marriage, the regulation of gender Identity, etc. So, given this background and the harsh comments expressed by some councilors regarding rights and freedoms in the last weeks, it would not be surprising that the constituent drafting would take the same course as the aforementioned rights.”

Henríquez finally pointed out that “more than a setback, there is a kind of invisibilization of historically discriminated groups, including LGBTI+ people.” 

“Here it is important to make clear that the state of Chile and the inhabitants of this country already have a commitment to sexual and gender diversity that no political sector, no matter how conservative or extremist it may be, can deny,” he said. “For this reason, the call we make from Fundación Iguales is that the constitutional advisors legislate looking at the reality of a country that day by day advances in freedom, development and protection of human rights.”

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Argentina activists raise alarm over far-right primary victory

Javier Milei won Aug. 13 primary, LGBTQ+ candidates also advanced



Javier Milei (Screen capture via YouTube)

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — The results of Argentina’s primary elections on Aug. 13 have exposed a political landscape that combines significant advances in LGBTQ+ and intersex rights with the worrying expansion of the far-right in that country. In an election in which only a few openly queer candidates managed to advance to the general elections on Oct. 22, the LGBTQ+ and intersex community is watching closely the rise of conservative tendencies that could impact their rights.

The results had an unexpected protagonist: Ultra-right wing candidate Javier Milei won the most votes.

With almost 7 million votes — about 30.1 percent of the total cast — the libertarian economist leader of La Libertad Avanza capitalized upon Argentines’ discontent with leftist President Alberto Fernández’s government.

Former Security Minister Patricia Bullrich, who was part of right wing President Mauricio Macri’s government, and her “Together for Change” coalition finished second with 28.3 percent of the votes. Peronism, represented by Finance Minister Sergio Massa and his “Unión por la Patría” ruling coalition, obtained 27.2 percent, which is its worst result since 2011.

Milei’s running mate, Congresswoman Victoria Villarruel, during the campaign spoke against marriage rights for same-sex couples, saying a union between people of the same sex was already “guaranteed with the civil union.” Milei himself also spoke against sexual and gender diversity.

LGBTQ+ candidates

Reina Ibañez became the first Transgender woman presidential candidate in Argentina’s history. She won enough votes to stay in the race. 

Ibañez told the Washington Blade she feels like a winner for making history in Argentina. 

“It was a triumph to be the first Trans candidate for president of Argentina,” said Ibañez. “This marks a historical fact here in the country.”

For her, “the triumph of the ultra-right here in Argentina I attribute it to the fact that more and more people are buying the discourse of the right and in this case the ultra-right won, which in this case would be Milei with his discourse of anti-politics, anti-caste and it worries that this type of characters have won in Argentina.” 

“We will be vigilant and attentive so that they do not take away the rights we have won,” she said.

Reina Ibañez (Photo courtesy of Reina Ibañez)

Ibañez added “it is a threat to the LGBT community because Milei said that there is no need for the ministry of gender and women in his campaign. And he is against LGBT people, so if the same result is confirmed in October, it will be a very difficult country for all sectors, not only for the LGBT community.”

Esteban Paulón, a well-known activist, in a historic milestone won enough votes in his race to become a congressman to advance to the general elections.

“We obtained 62,000 votes throughout my province and we need to increase to a little more than double that to manage to fight for the seat on Oct. 22,” Paulón told the Blade.

Esteban Paulón is one of Argentina’s most prominent LGBTQ+ and intersex activists. (Photo courtesy of Esteban Paulón)

The candidate for the province of Santa Fe in northeastern Argentina explained “we are going to intensify the campaign in the big cities, the tours in the towns and communes of Santa Fe and seek the support of those who, in spite of the national panorama, want to count on a voice that will defend the rights of all in Congress.”

On the other hand, Santiaga D’Ambrosio, a nonbinary candidate of the Popular Left Front, explained to the Blade that they believe “the electoral triumph of the ultra-right in Argentina is an expression, distorted, of punishment vote to the current national government of the Front of All, with a still very fresh memory of what was Mauricio Macri’s government.”

“We must be clear about two things: That the electorate as a whole does not fully and consciously share the program of political-economic subordination to the United States and the cut to basic rights such as health, education and work; and on the other hand, that an electoral victory is not a blank check so that it can implement the whole of its liberal program as we saw in Jujuy winning Morales with a 54 percent of the votes and then having a popular rebellion that was an example of how to face the adjustment,” stressed D’Ambrosio.

Santiaga D’Ambrosio says the rise of the ultra-right in Argentina is a threat to social progress. (Courtesy photo)

Finally, they indicated that “it must be emphasized that this is not an ideological vote, but one identified with anger towards the political caste and the great economic problems of the country, without ever talking about the role played by businessmen and that caste of which he is a part.”

Far right’s rise a challenge for LGBTQ+ rights

The primary election has highlighted the rise of far-right tendencies in Argentina, which has raised concerns within the LGBTQ+ and intersex community. With parties and candidates seeking to curtail LGBTQ+ and intersex rights and speaking out against sexual diversity, many activists fear the gains they have made in recent years could be at risk.

Among the group that supports Milei there are recognized anti-rights militants, deniers of the dictatorship and climate change, and anti-LGBT+ rights, which they have characterized as privileged,” said Paulón. 

The candidate added “in this sense Milei’s electoral rise implies a concrete risk for queer people, both because of the possibility of regression in terms of rights, Milei’s vice presidential candidate has proposed to repeal equal marriage and sanction a different civil union for queer couples. At the same time she is a militant against comprehensive sex education and the alleged gender ideology.”

LGBTQ+ and intersex activists are in an effort to mobilize voters and raise awareness about the importance of maintaining and strengthening the gains made in equal rights and acceptance of diversity. The general election is shaping up to be an opportunity for Argentine citizens to take a clear position on the political and social direction the country will take in the coming years.

Flavia Massenzio, president of the LGBT+ Federation of Argentina, the most important queer organization in that country, told the Blade that “it is a very worrying result for the right wing in Argentina.”

“The truth is that both the equal marriage law, the gender identity law, as well as many advances that Argentina had, may be at risk with the advances of these candidates if they are actually elected,” lamented Massenzio.

Flavia Massenzio currently leads Argentina’s main queer organization. (Photo courtesy of Flavia Massenzio)
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South America

Three men arrested during gay sauna raid in Venezuela released

Authorities in Valencia took 33 people into custody on July 23



Venezuelan flag (Photo by Rarrarorro via Bigstock)

VALENCIA, Venezuela — Three men who police in Venezuela’s Carabobo state arrested when they raided a gay sauna on July 23 have been released from jail.

Officers in Valencia, the country’s third largest city, arrested 33 people during the July 23 raid.

Ricardo Hung of Alianza Lambda de Venezuela, a Venezuelan LGBTQ+ and intersex rights group, previously told the Washington Blade the arrests took place “without a search warrant, without due process” and violated “the fundamental rights of 33 Venezuelan adults who were in full use of their mental and physical faculties.”

A local media report indicated an “orgy” was taking place during a “sex party” at the sauna when the raid took place. Another published account indicates one of the participants who police arrested lives with HIV, and party organizers planned to sell videos of the men having sex they recorded.

Hung said authorities charged the men with committing indecent acts in a public place (the sauna that police raided is a private business), gathering with the intent to commit a crime and violating local noise ordinances. The men under could face up to three years in prison if convicted on the first charge, and up to five years incarceration if found guilty of the second.

A judge last week released 30 of the men who were arrested and ordered them to report to authorities every 30 days until they go to trial. Hung told the Blade the sauna’s owner and two masseurs were the three men who had remained in jail.

Alianza Lambda on Wednesday said a judge released the three men after they met bail. 

“The fight continues for full freedom and the application of justice for all the aggressors involved,” said Alianza Lambda.

Discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation, gender identity and HIV is commonplace in Venezuela, a South American country that remains in the midst of an ongoing political and economic crisis.

Members of Venezuela’s General Directorate of Military Counterintelligence in January 2021 raided the offices of Azul Positivo, an HIV/AIDS service organization and arrested the group’s president and five other staff members. Police on Feb. 15, 2019, raided the offices of Fundación Mavid, another HIV/AIDS service organization in Valencia, and arrested three staffers after they confiscated donated infant formula and medications for people with HIV/AIDS.

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South America

Venezuela police raid gay sauna, arrest 33 men

Raid took place in Valencia in Carabobo state on Sunday



Venezuelan flag (Photo by Rarrarorro via Bigstock)

VALENCIA, Venezuela — Police in Venezuela’s Carabobo state on Sunday raided a gay sauna and arrested 33 people.

A Venezuelan activist told the Washington Blade the arrests in Valencia, which is the country’s third largest city, took place “without a search warrant, without due process” and violated “the fundamental rights of 33 Venezuelan adults who were in full use of their mental and physical faculties.”

“[They were subjected to] degrading treatment,” said the activist. “[The police] deprived them of their liberty and subjected them to public ridicule.”

One local media report indicates an “orgy” was taking place during a “sex party” at the sauna when the raid took place. 

The report indicates one of the participants who police arrested lives with HIV. It also said party organizers planned to sell videos of the men having sex they recorded.

The activist with whom the Blade spoke said a judge on Wednesday released 30 of the 33 men who were arrested and ordered them to report to authorities every 30 days until they go to trial. The activist noted the sauna’s owner and two masseurs will remain in custody until they are able to pay bail.

Discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation, gender identity and HIV is commonplace in Venezuela, a South American country that remains in the midst of an ongoing political and economic crisis.

Members of Venezuela’s General Directorate of Military Counterintelligence in January 2021 raided the offices of Azul Positivo, an HIV/AIDS service organization and arrested the group’s president and five other staff members. Police on Feb. 15, 2019, raided the offices of Fundación Mavid, another HIV/AIDS service organization in Valencia, and arrested three staffers after they confiscated donated infant formula and medications for people with HIV/AIDS.

Caribe Afirmativo and Fundación de Atención Inclusiva, Social y Humana (FUVADIS) are among the advocacy groups in neighboring Colombia that continue to work with LGBTQ+ and intersex Venezuelans who have fled their country in recent years.

“Persecution against LGBTIQ+ people in Venezuela is increasing,” said the Venezuelan Education-Action Program on Human Rights (PROVEA), a Venezuelan human rights organization, in a tweet. 

“We reiterate the need for due process, the right to private counsel and that every person knows the reasons for their detention,” added PROVEA. “To be homosexual is not a crime.”

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Brazilian police arrest former firefighter in connection with Rio councilwoman’s murder

Marielle Franco was a bisexual woman of African descent



A Brazilian television station on March 14, 2022, reports on the fourth anniversary of Rio de Janeiro Municipal Councilwoman Marielle Franco's murder. A former firefighter has been arrested in connection with her death. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

BRASÍLIA, Brazil — Brazilian police on Monday arrested a third person in connection with the 2018 murder Rio de Janeiro Municipal Councilwoman Marielle Franco and her driver.

Reuters reported officers arrested Maxwell Simões Correia, a former firefighter who allegedly hid the guns that two former police officers used to shoot Franco and Anderson Gomes in Rio’s Lapa neighborhood on March 14, 2018.

Franco, a bisexual woman and single mother of African descent, grew up in Maré, a favela in the northern part of Rio that is close to the city’s international airport. Franco, among other things, was an outspoken critic of police raids in Rio’s favelas that have left hundreds of people dead.

Authorities in 2019 arrested two former police officers in connection with Franco’s murder.

Reuters reported one of them, Elcio de Queiroz, who prosecutors say drove the car that he and Ronnie Lessa, his alleged co-conspirator, used in the shooting, has entered into a plea agreement. 

Lessa lived in the same large condominium complex in Rio’s exclusive Barra da Tijuca neighborhood in which former President Jair Bolsonaro lives.

Bolsonaro, a former Brazilian Army captain who represented Rio in Congress for decades before he became president, had yet to be elected when Franco and Gomes were murdered.

Bolsonaro has strongly denied media reports that indicate Lessa visited his home before the killings. Franco’s widow, Rio Municipal Councilwoman Mônica Benício, during a March 2022 interview with the Washington Blade described the fact that Lessa and Bolsonaro were neighbors as “just a coincidence.” 

Rio de Janeiro Municipal Councilwoman Mônica Benício in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on March 19, 2022. Her wife, Rio de Janeiro Municipal Councilwoman Marielle Franco, and her driver, Anderson Gomes, were murdered on March 14, 2018. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Lessa and Queiroz remain in custody.

Justice Minister Flávio Dino on Monday said during a press conference in Brasília, the Brazilian capital, that Queiroz has provided investigators with information they can use to help identify others who plotted to assassinate Franco and Gomes.

“We are close to solving this horrendous crime,” said Dino.

Benício on Monday praised Dino and President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva for their continued efforts to investigate Franco’s murder.

“I would like to thank Minister Flavio Dino and President Lula for their efforts to seek a solution to this crime that has shaken our state’s structures,” tweeted Benício. “Who had Marielle killed? I have faith and conviction that we will have that answer.” 

Benício on Monday sent the Washington Blade this statement.

“The Federal Police and Public Prosecutor’s Office operation renews our hopes in having an answer about who are the principals and their motivations for the murder of Marielle and Anderson.

The role of the FP in investigations, in collaboration with the MPRJ (The State of Rio de Janeiro’s Public Ministry), has been fundamental, But our struggle as family members and civil society, which formed a large task force over these five years, is what has made this case stand out.

Maxwell’s arrest, today, is an important step towards the accountability of others directly involved in the execution of the crime, but I hope that the PF and the Public Prosecutor’s Office continue in this mutual cooperation action to take Ronnie Lessa and Elcio Queiroz to trial later this year. The pact of silence between these killers has been broken, it is necessary to act with agility and prudence to reach the principals and their motivations. Answering who ordered Marielle’s death and why is essential for us to restore democracy in our country. I am hopeful that moment is approaching.”

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Chilean lawmakers reject complaint against openly gay education minister

Marco Antonio Ávila faced insults about sexual orientation



Chilean Education Minister Marco Antonio Avila. (Photo courtesy of the Chilean Congress)

By Esteban Ríoseco | VALPARAÍSO, Chile — The Chilean Congress on Wednesday rejected a complaint against openly gay Education Minister Marco Antonio Ávila that a group of conservative lawmakers filed against him.

President Gabriel Boric himself denounced and repudiated the series of homophobic statements against his Cabinet member.

The traditional right and the extreme right voted as a block in favor of dismissing Ávila. They accused him of infringing upon parents’ rights to educate their children and failing to fulfill his responsibilities to address an alleged “deep educational crisis.” 

Lawmakers voted 78-69 to reject the complaint that 10 conservative lawmakers filed. 

Four of the complaint’s seven chapters contained references to the Education Ministry’s gender or sexual education policies they said Ávila implemented. These policies, however, have been in place since leftist President Michelle Bachelet and right-wing President Sebastián Piñera were in office.

“I have never broken the laws or (violated) the constitution,” said Ávila after the vote. “I am a firm defender of democracy, of the constitution and of the tools it contains to control and improve the actions of authorities. But I am also certain that it is through constructive dialogue that the vast majority of those of us who participate in politics can move forward to improve the lives of hundreds and thousands of students, children and young people.”

Boric on Twitter reiterated his rejection of the accusation against Ávila and once again emphasized those who brought it showed “homophobic character.”

“The constitutional complaint against the Education Minister and professor Marco Ávila is the fourth filed by the right wing in less than a year and a half of government has been rejected,” wrote Boric. “Its lack of legal support and homophobic character were on display. Justice and reason have triumphed.”

Congress seemed poised to approve the complaint until the lawmakers who introduced it invited Christian Legislative Observatory Director Marcela Aranda to testify against Ávila. 

Aranda is the former spokesperson of the Freedom Bus, which Hazte Oir, an ultra-Catholic organization from Spain, brought to Chile in 2017.

She testified that Avila’s “LGTBIQ+ activism and his condition has exceeded the limit of what is private.” Congresswoman María Luisa Cordero accused Ávila of encouraging child perversion. 

“I find it unusual, inadmissible, nauseating and disgusting that the Minister of Education … is concerned about the incitement to sexuality and whether they have an active and reactive clitoris … I would have already asked for the famous Ávila to be imprisoned for inciting precocity and child sexual perversion if he were not Education Minister,” said the congresswoman. 

She added Ávila “is a fatty liver patient with high bilirubin levels.” 

“This attacks the neurons and causes mental incompetence,” said Cordero. “He is a person about whom nobody worries because he should be evaluated physically and biologically.” 

Ávila (and his ministry), according to Cordero “has a perverse preoccupation with the sexual anticipation and development of schoolchildren.” 

“They are a bunch of perverts who work from the crotch.”

Her statements, which El Mercurio, Chile’s leading conservative newspaper, and LGBTQ+ and intersex organizations documented, made lawmakers from Evópoli, a center-right party, and from the center-left Christian Democracy Party, which is not part of the government, reevaluate whether to vote in favor of dismissing Ávila. The coalitions votes were key.

The Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation condemned the anti-gay statements. 

“The statements of these people, especially Cordero, are clearly a response to the minister’s sexual orientation and the policies of the Education Ministry to promote LGBTIQ+ human rights,” said Movilh. “These are homophobic speeches that go as far as the irrationality of insulting an authority with child abuse just for being gay.”

Fundación Iguales Executive Director María José Cumplido told the Washington Blade “it is very good news that the constitutional complaint has been rejected because it had no legal arguments and instead was a ruse to personally attack the minister for his sexual orientation. Therefore, from Fundación Iguales’ persepctive we celebrate that there has been a rejection to those homophobic attacks that personally attacked Minister Ávila.”

Emilia Schneider, a pro-government congresswoman, pointed out to the Blade that “the constitutional accusation against Minister Antonio Ávila was rejected for being an accusation without legal grounds, based on lies and homophobia.”

Schneider is the first Transgender woman to win a seat in the Chilean Congress.

“It is a very good sign that the National Congress in its majority is not supportive of this civilizational setback, I regret that we have wasted time in this show of the right and ultra-right,” Schneider emphasized. 

Finally, Ávila said that “my call today, after this accusation, is to improve (the treatment of people) in the political world, to respect each other beyond differences, not to turn the fair differences between one and the other into personal attacks.”

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South America

Chilean government plans to strengthen anti-discrimination law

Gabriel Boric’s administration to create equality council



Government officials and LGBTQ+ and intersex activists attended the announcement of efforts to strengthen Chile's anti-discrimination law. (Courtesy photo)

By Estebán Ríoseco | SANTIAGO, Chile — President Gabriel Boric’s administration has announced it intends to strengthen Chile’s anti-discrimination law that took effect in 2012.

Law 20,609, named after Daniel Zamudio, a gay man who was murdered in Santiago, the Chilean capital, in 2012, marked an important milestone in the fight against discrimination.

Boric’s government is also reportedly going to create an equality and nondiscrimination council, which will provide an institutional framework to fight for LGBTQ+ and intersex people and other vulnerable groups.

According to the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation (Movilh), the Latin American country’s main queer organization, hate crimes doubled over the last year. And for this reason, Movilh for more than a decade has been demanding that Chilean authorities improve the Zamudio Law to prevent violence against LGBTQ+ and intersex people.

Last month’s Pride march that Movilh organized drew more than 180,000 people who demanded improvements to the Zamudio Law.

“We are very happy that our demands were heard and that this announcement is made today in the company of Jaqueline Vera and Iván Zamudio, Daniel’s mother and father,” said Movilh President Gonzalo Velásquez. “We must not forget that the Anti-Discrimination Law accelerated its approval after the brutal homophobic attack that took the life of Daniel Zamudio in 2012. Along with him, 63 other people have been murdered in Chile because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. It is to them … and to so many victims of other forms of discrimination that we must dedicate this announcement of the strengthening of the law.”

Since Boric since he took office in March 2022, he has commissioned the Women and Gender Equality Ministry to work with Chilean LGBTQ+ and intersex rights organizations to implement his campaign promises. 

State Secretariat Minister Antonia Orellana told the Washington Blade that “first I would like to highlight the work of the governmental roundtable for the rights of LGBTIQA+ people that the Ministry of Women and Gender Equality carried out together with the Sociocultural Coordination of the Presidency in 2022.”

According to her, this work “is part of the actions that we have been carrying out to respond to the demands of gender diversity and dissidence gathered at the table, but above all to move towards the protection of people and respect for their identity, freedom and dignity.”

“This instance not only allowed us to listen and learn about the particular needs that arise from this experience; receiving them in La Moneda (the Chilean Presidential Palace) was also a sign, a milestone and a message that is consistent with what is commemorated on Pride Day, which is the need to make this diversity visible in search of recognition and respect for the identity and dignity of people, whether they are transgender, lesbian, gay, nonbinary,” said Orellana.

“Today, as the Ministry of Women and Gender Equality, we are integrating the LGBTIQA+ community from the possibilities that our institutional framework gives us today,” she emphasized.  “All ministries are committed to advancing LGBTIQA+ matters and our Ministry is leading the actions that allow us to push that agenda.”

Fundación Iguales Executive Director Maria José Cumplido told the Blade from Concepción that “we believe it is a very good announcement to create an anti-discrimination institution and improve the Zamudio Law. We are happy that the government has listened to us.”

“With Movilh we requested many times that the Justice Ministry should host this institution through the Undersecretary of Human Rights. That is the competent state portfolio,” added Cumplido.

Fundación Iguales Executive Director María José Cumplido. (Washington Blade photo by Esteban Ríoseco)

Orellana further stressed to the Blade that “this new institutionalism is added to other actions that we have been carrying out as a government and that have to do with improving the daily experience of diversities and dissidences, among them the restitution of a public property in the Aysén Region to build the first House of Diversities and Dissidences, which can attend and gather people from the community.” She said it will also include “the incorporation of questions on gender identity and sexual orientation in the CASEN (a survey used to create public policy) because it is important to make diversities and dissidences visible, to know how they live, what needs they have, to know and recognize them so that the state can effectively reach all people; or the elimination of discriminatory and stigmatizing practices in health care, including reconversion therapies, through new guidelines of the Health Ministry.”

“We have other commitments also in labor matters, to protect the right to work of trans people,” said Orellana. “There are still many actions to be taken in this work, but we count on the will and commitment of all the ministries.” 

Women and Gender Equality Minister Antonia Orellana speaks at a Pride month event in Concepción, Chile. (Courtesy photo)

This new institutional framework and proposed reforms of the Zamudio Law depend upon Congress. Boric’s government has therefore made them a legislative priority.

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South America

Lima Pride participants send message to Peruvians

More than 50,000 marchers demanded equal rights



The annual Lima Pride Parade took place in the Peruvian capital on July 1, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Jacob Kessler)

LIMA, Peru — Not even the gray skies of Lima could dim the vibrant festivities of the Pride march in Peru’s capital on July 1. 

This year marked Lima’s 21st annual Pride parade and organizers told the Washington Blade it was the biggest yet. More than 50,000 Peruvians marched through the historic streets of the city center dancing with drums, flags and posters. But for some at the march, Pride this year took on a different tone.

The theme of this year’s march was “Pride is Democracy.” A huge screen on the stage at the center of the Pride festivities had a message which said: “Pride is democracy: For a true democracy with social justice and representation.” 

With this theme in mind, most of the people who spoke to the Blade talked about the state of LGBTQ+ and intersex rights in Peru and their fight to maintain and improve Peru’s democracy. 

“This year, more than eight trans women have been murdered in a truly ruthless way,” said Leila Heurta, the director and founder of Feminas Peru, an NGO dedicated to the empowerment of Transgender women. “And that is why we can’t forget the political side of the march. That’s why the motto of this year’s march is: without pride, there is no democracy.”

While Peru is a democracy, it is one of the few countries on the continent that offers zero legal recognition for same-sex couples. Further, as many of the marchers pointed out, police often fail to investigate the deaths of murdered trans women or arrest the culprits.

Jorge Apolaya, one of the organizers of this year’s march, told the Blade he believes Peru’s democracy is backsliding. 

“[This year’s march] takes place in a year in which we feel that there are more and more setbacks regarding the political situation of the country,” said Apolaya. “Our democracy is getting weaker and weaker. It is very important for us that we can live in a democracy, because only in a democracy can we demand respect for the human rights of LGBT people.”

Despite the lack of rights and legal protections for LGBTQ+ and intersex people in Peru, many marchers seemed optimistic about their future. 

Steve Arnao, a 36-year-old doctor, attended the march with his boyfriend. 

“I see a change that is slowly taking place in Peru,” he told the Blade. “But it is important that each year, we join the march and continue fighting for our rights.”

An AIDS Healthcare Foundation float in the Lima Pride parade in Lima, Peru, on July 1, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Jacob Kessler)

The battle for LGBTQ and intersex rights in Peru is steep.

According to a 2020 Ipsos survey, only 38 percent of Peruvians were in support of civil unions for same-sex couples — seven percentage points higher than a similar survey in 2014, but still nowhere close to a majority of the country. 

A 2023 survey from Ipsos revealed that 98 percent of LGBTQ+ and intersex people surveyed were either “extremely” or “very” dissatisfied with “the role of the State in guaranteeing rights of diverse families/LGBTIQA+ people.” Fifty-six percent of respondents reported having experienced discrimination.

“We will never lose hope,” says Apolaya. “Even with this Congress, as part of civil society and as part of the social fabric of this country, we will continue demanding that the minimum of democracy that we have persists and that we do not lose it.”

Another prominent group of attendees at the march is one that has been steadily increasing in Peru over the last few years: Venezuelan immigrants. According to the U.S. Agency for International Development, Peru is the second-largest recipient of Venezuelans and the largest host country of Venezuelan asylum seekers worldwide. Peru hosts more than one million Venezuelans, with most of them living in the capital. 

Therefore, many LGBTQ+ and intersex Venezuelans joined Lima’s Pride parade. One of those Venezuelans was Mariangel Rodriguez. Despite living in Lima for nine years, Rodriguez hasn’t always felt comfortable in LGBTQ+ and intersex spaces in Peru.

“I think part of my concern about not participating in the previous marches was related to the fact that I’m a minority within a minority,” said Rodriguez. “Being a woman, a migrant who comes from a very hard socio-political context … this has transformed the course of my life.” 

Rodriguez went on to describe her experiences with discrimination in Peru.

“In many parts of Peru, it is widespread to see migrants as something negative,” said Rodriguez. “And well, in the past, being a Venezuelan person, obviously I have felt the need to protect and take care of myself by avoiding the marches. But generally, this march has meant something very important to me, not only because it was the first time I went, but also because I saw how many things have evolved in such a short time.”

Despite homophobia and transphobia coming from both the left and right in Peru, many activists have noticed a change in attitudes toward LGBTQ+ and intersex people, especially among the younger generation.   

On the sidelines of the march, one mother held a sign which read: “My son has filled my life with colors.” She told the Blade that her only wish for her 18-year-old child is for him to live his life in the way he wants and for him to be happy.

A woman who participated in the annual Lima Pride parade in Lima, Peru, on July 1, 2023, holds a sign that reads, “my son fills my life with colors.” (Photo courtesy of Jacob Kessler)
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South America

Transgender Brazilian government official travels to D.C.

Symmy Larrat, Brazil’s National Secretary for the Promotion & Defense of the Rights of LGBTQIA+ people, spoke exclusively with the Blade



Brazilian National Secretary for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights of LGBTQIA+ People Symmy Larrat at the National Press Club in D.C. on June 16, 2023. (Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

WASHINGTON – A transgender woman who is a member of Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s government said the storming of her country’s Congress, Presidential Palace and Supreme Court in January sparked outrage among many Brazilians.

Symmy Larrat, who is Brazil’s National Secretary for the Promotion and Defense of the Rights of LGBTQIA+ People, spoke exclusively with the Washington Blade on June 16. She was in D.C. to participate in an Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights conference.

Thousands of supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro on Jan. 8 stormed the country’s Congress, Presidential Palace and Supreme Court.

Da Silva took power a week before the insurrection. His predecessor, who did not accept last October’s election results, was in Florida when Da Silva took office. 

Bolsonaro has since returned to Brazil.

“There are two aspects of Jan. 8. The first that scares me the most is people now think we won the election and we’re set and nobody protected themselves against what happened,” Larrat told the Blade, speaking through a Brazilian Embassy staffer who translated for her. “That moment signaled for all of us how absurd the extremists are. The other side doesn’t respect the democratic system.” 

“On the other hand it showed Brazil that what we were denouncing as a very aggressive posture was a reality,” she added. “Brazilians are very patriotic and people felt offended by it.”

Brazilian National Secretary for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights of LGBTQIA+ People Symmy Larrat, left, listens to International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights Executive Director Carlos Quesada at the National Museum of African American History in D.C. on June 20, 2023. (Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Larrat was born and raised in Belém, a city near the mouth of the Amazon River in the country’s Pará state.

Her parents were history teachers, and she said that’s why she “always had this questioning, curiosity” about different social justice movements. Larrat studied communications at the Federal University of Pará and her advocacy began with what she described to the Blade as “the democratization of communication structures and networks.”

Larrat later became an LGBTQ and intersex rights activist.

She organized Pride parades, helped establish NGOs and founded a shelter and community center for vulnerable LGBTQ and intersex people. Larrat told the Blade she responded to the lack of support for LGBTQ and intersex people in Belém and throughout the Brazilian Amazon.

“That’s what made me sense the necessity of justice and inequality because of the lack of support for LGBT people in the Amazon is just one of the things that we lack in the region,” she said. “It’s a region with a lack of information, technology. It’s a very colonized region in the worst sense of the word; not colonized only by the world, but also colonized by Brazil, the lack of policies for development.”

“It is a region that is very rich with a very poor population, so there is still an extractivist logic. that we develop consumer products and we feed the international regions, but we don’t benefit from what is created,” she added, noting it is often to travel from São Paulo to other countries than it is to fly from the country’s commercial capital to Belém and other cities in the Amazon. “The access is difficult. You don’t have access to medical care, information technology. There’s a lot of difficult access to information and information technology.”

Larrat said she knew she “had a feeling as a teenager that I was transgender, but at that time I didn’t see transgender people in places of power.” 

Brazilian model Roberta Close, who is trans, was well-known throughout the country in the 1980s. Larrat said trans people at that time were prominent in Brazilian media and art, but “mostly in a pejorative way.”

“I had the conscience that I needed to study, to take myself out of this situation of vulnerability, so I had to study,” she said.

Larrat came out as trans when she was 30.

She was already active in various social movements, but she engaged in sex work “to survive.” Larrat said her family kicked her out of their home when she was a teenager, but she “reconnected with” her mother after she transitioned. Larrat told the Blade that her family now accepts her gender identity.

“The truth was what I was saying gave her (my mother) an understanding of my suffering and then she accompanied me with all my transitioning processes and that made her understand and she got scared about aggressions that I may suffer from society,” she said. “That’s when we reconnected, with her and with all of her family. Today they’re very accepting of it.”

Bolsonaro government was ‘terrifying’

Former President Dilma Rousseff’s government in 2013 invited Larrat to join the country’s Human Rights Ministry as an assistant for LGBTQ and intersex rights. Larrat joked she “was prostituting myself at night … and the next night I went to Brasília to go to the federal government.”

“That’s exactly what happened,” she said.

Larrat left the government once Rousseff was impeached in 2016.

Bolsonaro, a former congressman and former Brazilian Army captain, took office in 2019. He faced sharp criticism because of his rhetoric against LGBTQ and intersex Brazilians, women, people of African and indigenous descent and other groups.

The former president, among other things, encouraged fathers to beat their sons if they came out as gay. A Brazilian Federal Police investigator last August called for prosecutors to charge Bolsonaro with incitement for spreading false information about COVID-19 after he said people who are vaccinated against the virus are at increased risk for AIDS. 

“It was terrifying to be there during the Bolsonaro government because we were seeing the public policies all being deconstructed, being destroyed,” said Larrat. “We knew the impacts of it on the lives of people, but it was a shock to all of us the institutionalization of hate speech.”

Larrat further stressed the majority of Brazilians do “not agree with the hate speech, but they are influenced by it.” Larrat also said this hate speech — “we have to protect our children. I can be who I am, but I cannot be it in front of children” — is part of a larger strategy to make Brazilians afraid of LGBTQ and intersex people.

“It’s speech that paints us as a menace and puts fear in people,” she said.

Anti-Jair Bolsonaro flyers on Paulista Avenue in São Paulo, on March 13, 2022. (Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Brazil’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal on Friday banned Bolsonaro from running for office until 2030. The Associated Press noted five of the court’s seven judges agreed the former president used “official communications channels to promote his campaign” and spread disinformation about last year’s election.

Larrat admitted the 2022 campaign was “very difficult” for Brazil. She stressed Da Silva won, in part, because he believes in democracy.

“The power of dialogue that he has is impressive; the capacity to speak to everybody, to speak with both sides on each day,” said Larrat. “He negotiates with both sides. He’s a very good political articulator.”

Brazil’s Planalto (Presidential) Palace illuminated in rainbow colors in honor of Pride month. (Photo courtesy of Congresswoman Erika Hilton/Twitter)

Congresswomen Erika Hilton and Duda Salabert, who are both transgender, won their respective elections last October.

Larrat, who said she is friends with both of them, told the Blade trans Brazilians still lack representation in the country’s political process. Larrat, however, did stress Hilton and Salabert’s election is an important step forward for the country.

“It’s still very little,” said Larrat. “We went from nothing to something.”

Brazilian Congresswoman Erika Hilton speaks at an LGBTQ Victory Institute-sponsored conference in Brasília, Brazil, in January. (Photo by Ester Cruz)
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