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Four women set on fire 'for being lesbians'. A shocking crime in a hotel room

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A shocking crime took place in one of the hotel rooms in Buenos Aires. A Molotov cocktail thrown there caused the bodies of four tenants to burst into flames. Only one survived. – They were set on fire because they were lesbians – activists have no doubt. As a gesture of opposition, demonstrations took place in the capital of Argentina. Meanwhile, President Javier Milei refuses to admit that there is violence in the country based on sexual orientation. Commentators claim that after he took office, a process of undermining the values ​​that had previously guided Argentina began.

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The tragic events in the Barracas district of Buenos Aires prompted dozens of people to take to the streets. Last week, more than 200 protesters gathered in front of Plaza Colombia in the Argentine capital. Just two streets away, a modest hotel run by a family became the site of a terrible crime.

According to witnesses, on Monday, May 6 in the morning, a man threw a bottle full of flammable liquid into room number 14 and set it on fire. There were four women inside. Only one of them survived the attack.

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Flowers and candles were placed in front of the hotel. The killing sparked outrage and fear in Argentina's LGBTQI+ community. Its members demand justice and warn against the increase in hate speech.

“Because they are lesbians”

52-year-old Pamela Cobbas and her 52-year-old partner Mercedes Roxana Figueroa were in the premises. 42-year-old Andra Amarante and her 49-year-old partner Sofía Castro Riglos were also there.

Cobbas died several hours after the attack. Figueroa, however, suffered burns covering 90 percent of his body two days later. Doctors tried for a week to save Amarante's life, but to no avail. She died on Sunday. The only victim to survive the Molotov cocktail attack is Castro Riglos. Her life is not in danger. The woman has already testified in court.

– They were set on fire for being lesbians. They were set on fire for being poor lesbians. They were set on fire because they were poor community lesbians, a member of a local neighborhood association said during last week's protest. According to their information, the women lived in poor conditions. They paid about $50 for a shared room without a bathroom.

The main suspect is Justo Fernando Barrientos. He is a 67-year-old man who rented a room near the one occupied by the women.

Other tenants testified that the victims' screams woke them up at night. When they saw the women's bodies on fire, they tried to put them out with a fire extinguisher. Since that didn't help, they took them to the nearest shower. Meanwhile, the fire in the room spread to part of the building and approximately 30 people had to be evacuated.

Barrientos was arrested after he attempted suicide. He was taken to hospital and after being discharged he was arrested. He has not yet testified in court. He tries to determine whether the man can be held responsible for the crime or whether his mental condition prevents it.

Tragedy in Buenos Aires. The man set four women on fireJUAN MABROMATA/AFP/East

Voices of condemnation

Human rights organizations such as Amnesty International emphasize that crimes committed against lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people are hate crimes.

“They are motivated by hatred of the sexual orientation of the victims, who belong to a group that is harassed and discriminated against,” Amnesty International said in a statement, demanding a full investigation. The Argentine Huesped Foundation noted that “statements denying the consequences of attacks on people from the LGBTQI+ community enable and promote impunity that condones violence in all its forms, including life-threatening violence.”

According to the annual report of the National Observatory on LGBTQI+ Hate Crimes, last year there were 133 crimes reported in Argentina in which the victims' sexual orientation, gender identity and/or expression were used as a pretext for attacks. There were 129 hate crimes recorded in 2022 and 120 in 2021.

Argentina changes course. The president's controversial position

Not so long ago, Argentina supported women's rights and sexual diversity and was an example for all of Latin America. Same-sex marriage (in 2010), a gender identity law (in 2012) and abortion legalization (in 2021) were introduced. However, the assumption of the presidency by Javier Milei began the process of undermining the values ​​that had previously guided the country.

Milei refuses to acknowledge that there is violence based on gender or sexual orientation in the country. His stance towards LGBTQI+ people raises social objections. In November, in the last phase of the election campaign, he made the following comparison: “If you want to be with an elephant… If you have the elephant's consent, then it's your problem and the elephant's problem.” He also assured that “he is not against marriage between two people of the same sex.”

However, when asked about the “massacre in Barracas”, presidential spokesman Manuel Adorni said that “many women and men experience violence.” – It seems very unfair to me to talk only about this incident, when violence is much more comprehensive than just a problem directed against a specific group – he added.

A day later, Milei posted on Instagram saying: “No my friend… speaking the truth does not generate hate. Whether you hate the truth is a different matter.”

The post was interpreted as a response from the president to those who criticize his government for refusing to recognize the attack in the Barracas district as a hate crime and for allowing the spread of anti-LGBTQI+ positions by people such as his official biographer, Nicolás Márquez.

In an interview with “El Pais”, Márquez expressed his opposition to the adoption of children by same-sex couples, even though it is provided for in the law. He claimed that this had psychological consequences, such as “suicide attempts, an increased tendency to homosexuality and drug addiction.”​​ He also made statements such as that “when the state promotes, encourages and finances homosexuality, it encourages self-destructive behavior.

Main photo source: JUAN MABROMATA/AFP/East

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