Community News

Two arrested for murder of transgender women in Puerto Rico

May 3, 2020

Two men have been arrested on suspecion of the murder in Puerto Rico of transgender women Serena Angelique Velázquez & Layla Peláez, it was reported in El Vocero, El Nue Vodia, and The Americano

FBI agents have said they have enough evidence to consider it a hate crime due to the gender identity of the victims, who were found dead in a badly burned car. The two men were identified as Juan Carlos Pagán Bonilla, a 21-year-old bakery employee, and Sean Díaz de León (19), according to an official note shared by Captain Teddy Morales, director of the Criminal Investigation Corps (CIC), via The Americano.

Activists in Puerto Rico have said there is an ‘epidemic of violence’ against LGBTQ+ people on the island. Velázquez and Peláez are thought to be the third and fourth trans people murdered in Puerto Rico in two months and advocacy groups have said that 10 LGBTQ+ people have been killed in the US commonwealth over the past 15 months.

LGBTQ+ activists and advocacy groups have accused the Puerto Rican government of having a ‘woefully inadequate’ response to the alleged hate crimes.

A coalition of LGBTQ+ advocacy groups known as CABE said in a recent press release that activists plan to ‘demand answers on the status of the investigations (into the LGBTQ+ Puerto Ricans’ murders), the plan for surveillance and prevention of these crimes, as well as a guarantee that the processes will be carried out in accordance with the protocols and free of prejudice’.

Gay rights activist Pedro Julio Serrano told a Zoom press conference: ‘We are seeking justice for each one of the victims.’