Help Make Puerto Rico Prosecute the Murder of 19 Year Old Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado as a Hate Crime
On November 14th the body of 19 year old Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado was found on an isolated road in Cayey, Puerto Rico. His body was partially burned, both of his arms and legs, as well as his torso were dismembered and he was also decapitated. While giving a televised statement, the police officer on this case said that Mercado deserved what happened to him. But in what case would someone possibly deserve to be tortured like this? Well, because he was gay and if that wasn’t heart-wrenching enough, the suspected murderer in the case is claiming self-defense, which will undoubtedly be used to invoke gay panic throughout the communities where this case has spread.
The suspected murderer is 26 year old Juan Antonio Martinez Matos, who has confessed to the murder and torture of Mercado, whom he believed at first to be a female prostitute. When discovering that he was a man, Matos who also claims he had been molested at a young age, thus his immense homophobia and bigotry, stabbed, dismembered and decapitated Mercado; he then set the remains of the body on fire. Where the whole self-defense thing comes in is when he claims that he was almost stabbed by the victim.
The police officer on the case stated during his televised statement, “These types of people, when they enter this lifestyle and go out into the streets know that this could happen.”
Sadly, this police officer’s statement is the same way many Puerto Ricans still feel and never in Puerto Rico has a crime been tried as a hate crime. This is unacceptable; what happened to Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado is unacceptable and incredibly sad. Someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity is never to harm someone physically or emotionally. Luckily, someone is speaking out about the hateful comments made by the police officer in this case. Activist Pedro Julio Serrano said, (this is loosely translated from Spanish to English) “It is inconceivable that the investigating officer suggests that the victim deserved his fate, like a woman deserves rape for wearing a short skirt. We demand condemnation of this investigator and demand that Superintendente Figueroa Sancha replace him with someone capable of investigating this case without prejudice.” Well said.
Because this case has outraged many within the GLBTQ community and their allies and many have been speaking out about this case, candlelight vigils for Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado will be held throughout the United States. On Sunday, November 22nd a vigil ceremony will be held in New York at Manhattan’s Pier 45 at 5:00pm. The Manhattan vigil will take place in conjunction with satellite Sunday vigils in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Durham and many other American cities. The photos and video footage of these vigils will be used in efforts for full prosecution in this case, as well as getting this case prosecuted as the first ever hate crime in Puerto Rico.
You can also support the efforts of the prosecution of this case as well the family and friends of Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado by joining the Facebook page.