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Puerto Rican Officials to Hold Meeting to Discuss LGBT Deaths

by Michael K. Lavers

National News Editor

Friday June 10, 2011

EDGE has learned that Puerto Rican officials will meet with prosecutors and activists in San Juan on Wednesday, June 15, to discuss anti-LGBT hate crimes on the island.

Pedro Julio Serrano of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force told EDGE that he will attend the meeting along with Puerto Rican Attorney General Guillermo Somoza; Puerto Rico Police Chief Jos Figueroa Sancha; Gov. Luis Fortuo's security advisor, Javier Varela; hate crimes prosecutor, Janet Parra; general prosecutor Obdulio Melendez and others. It is scheduled to take place a little more than a week after three LGBT Puerto Ricans were found dead in the span of 72 hours. Eighteen LGBT Puerto Ricans have been murdered over the last year and a half.

"[The meeting] a step in the right direction," Serrano told EDGE earlier today. "It's still not enough. We need a concrete plan on how they are going to speed up the training of the police officers on how to deal with hate crimes."

President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit Puerto Rico on Tuesday, June 14, but Fortuo has remained silent on these deaths. "I will certainly ask the officials to tell Fortuo to break his silence and finally speak on this epidemic of anti-LGBT violence-and especially to do a call out to all people to stop the hate rhetoric against LGBT people," said Serrano. "It needs to come from the governor."

Meanwhile, Karlota Gmez Snchez, the transgender woman who was found shot to death in a Santurce intersection on Monday, June 6, was buried on Thursday, June 9.

"There are a few individuals who are attacking us and hurting us," said Serrano, noting hundreds of people attended Gmez's funeral and those of other LGBT Puerto Ricans who have been murdered. "We suffer and its heart-wrenching, but out of this horrible hate has come a profound love from the families and friends of the LGBT individuals who have been killed. That tells you where the Puerto Rican people are-that's a place of love of acceptance and inclusion and not in a place where some political and religious leaders want us to be: a place of intolerance and hate."

Based in Washington, D.C., Michael K. Lavers has appeared in the New York Times, BBC, WNYC, Huffington Post, Village Voice, Advocate and other mainstream and LGBT media outlets. He is an unapologetic political junkie who thoroughly enjoys living inside the Beltway.