A Puerto Rican flag on a balcony in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 2018. Photo courtesy of Lorie Shaull via Flickr.
A Puerto Rican flag on a balcony in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 2018. Photo courtesy of Lorie Shaull via Flickr.
This Week in Latin America

Six Trans People Killed in Puerto Rico This Year

October 1, 2020 By Staff

TODAY IN LATIN AMERICA

PUERTO RICO: A transgender woman was fatally shot in the southwest town of San Germán, authorities reported Wednesday. The victim, Michelle Ramos Vargas, 33, was found on the side of the highway, close to a farm, with multiple gunshots to her body and fatal wounds to her head. Ramos Vargas, who lived in the coastal town of Mayagüez, worked as a bartender and was studying nursing, a police officer said. Authorities investigate whether it was a hate crime.

Ramos Vargas is the sixth trans person killed on the island this year. Last April, the bodies of two trans women were found in a charred car, and two men were later arrested after the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) took over the investigation. In that same month, a transgender woman was killed in her cell at the Bayamón Correctional Center. In March, the body of 19-year-old transgender man was found in Moca. He was allegedly mocked, assaulted and videotaped on social media before being fatally shot. In February, Alexa Negrón Luciano, a homeless transgender woman, was killed after using the woman’s bathroom in a McDonald’s in the town of Toa Baja. Her death sparked a national conversation about transphobia and violence. Negrón Luciano’s murder remains unsolved.

Headlines from the western hemisphere

SOUTHERN CONE

ARGENTINA: Joaquín Salvador Lavado, the Argentine cartoonist better known as Quino who created the character Mafalda, died aged 88 on Wednesday. Daniel Divinsky, Quino’s editor and founding partner of Ediciones de la Flor — the company that published Mafalda — disclosed the news. Quino reportedly suffered health problems in recent years. The author first published the comic strip in 1964, and since then, his work has been translated into 27 languages. Tuesday marked Mafalda’s fifty-sixth birthday. Quino later wrote stories featuring other non-conformist characters.

BRAZIL: President Jair Bolsonaro on Wednesday lashed back at U.S. presidential candidate Joe Biden for saying that the South American nation should face repercussions if the Amazon deforestation continues. During Tuesday’s debate with President Donald Trump, an ally of Bolsonaro, Biden said that Brazil should receive $20 billion to stop its rainforests from being torn down. Biden added that the country should face “significant economic consequences” if it fails. Bolsonaro accused Biden’s comments of being “disastrous,” “regrettable” and “gratuitous” via Twitter. The Brazilian leader said his country was taking action on deforestation, and he asserted that foreign interest in the Amazon is financially motivated.

ANDES

VENEZUELA: Waves of protests have erupted in Venezuela over the past few days as anger escalates over shortages and government neglect. More than 100 demonstrations have set off in 17 of 23 states since Sunday, some resulting in conflict with riot police. Angry citizens are defying lockdown restrictions to demand an end to the short supply of fuel, electricity, water and household goods. The coronavirus pandemic has made some of these shortages more severe. Residents are also accusing the government of neglecting the interior since supplies are directed to Caracas. Police and urban militias known as “colectivos” have been deployed to quell the unrest.

CARIBBEAN

PUERTO RICO: A federal control board discovered the island’s Department of Education paid more than $84 million to people who no longer work there over the span of 13 years. The Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico (JSF) announced Wednesday that about 17,500 employees received checks from 2007 to 2020. Natalie Jaresko, the board’s executive director, said there is a strong possibility that former employees collected checks of deceased employees. Jaresko also said the Department of Education only recently began using an electronic attendance system, even though it had already obtained one for over one decade. Federal and local law enforcement agencies continue the investigation.

CENTRAL AMERICA

GUATEMALA: Guatemala is set to reopen its national parks, bars, theaters and gyms this Thursday, with limited attendance. While certain safety measures will remain enforced in areas such as Guatemala City, where the virus is still spreading at high levels, venues can permit one person per 10 square meters. Public and national parks, archaeological sites, fairs and swimming pools can also reopen. The country opened its borders less than two weeks ago, and has recorded 3,238 coronavirus-related deaths and about 91,000 positive COVID-19 cases, including President Alejandro Giammattei.

NORTH AMERICA

MEXICO: Mexico’s Treasury announced an advance for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines to be distributed in the first months of the coming year. Secretary of Finance and Public Credit Arturo Herrera Gutiérrez said the coronavirus pandemic will impede growth and continue affecting the poor if it is not contained. The purchase is part of the multilateral initiative COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility, or COVAX. Assistant Health Secretary Hugo López-Gatell had previously stated that approximately 5,000 Mexicans will participate in a clinical trial for a vaccine developed by the pharmaceutical company Janssen, of the Johnson & Johnson corporation. Mexico reported on Monday 89,612 “estimated” coronavirus-related deaths and 870,699 cases.  

MEXICO: Mexican prosecutors said they found the skeletal remains of about 15 people near the city of Irapuato, in Guanajuato, the most violent state in the country. The Guanajuato state prosecutor’s office on Monday said a forensic team and relatives of disappeared people searched the area known as Cerro del Conejo from last Thursday to Saturday. Bone fragments were scattered on the ground, and decomposed bodily remains were found in plastic bags. Authorities sent the remains to forensic laboratories for analysis and identification.