SANTIAGO, CHILE – Prosecutors last week requested murder charges in the brutal attack of a young gay Chilean man who was beaten by his attackers— four alleged neo-Nazis–while they carved swastikas into his body and burned him with lit cigarettes.
On March 3, Daniel Zamudio was attacked and badly beaten for over an hour. His four alleged attackers have been jailed and charged with attempted murder. Among the suspects are men who have previous criminal records for attacks against LGBT persons.
Zamudio, who was in a vegetative state, finally succumbed to his injuries on March 27, dying more than three weeks after he was attacked. Within hours of his death, prosecutors asked that the charges against the men be upgraded to premeditated murder, which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. They say that Zamudio’s beating was motivated by homophobia.
Chile does not have a hate crimes statute. In 2005, lawmakers proposed anti-discrimination legislation, which was passed by the country’s Senate in November, but has yet to come to a vote in the lower Chamber of Deputies. Conservative organizations say that the measure is a first step toward gay marriage, which Chilean law bans forbids.
The legislation would make illegal “any distinction, exclusion or restriction that lacks reasonable justification, committed by agents of the state or individuals, and that causes the deprivation, disturbance or threatens the legitimate exercise of fundamental rights established by the constitution or in international human rights treaties ratified by Chile.”
Zamudio’s death prompted Chile’s president, Sebastian Pinera, to urge passage of the anti-discrimination law.
During a state visit to South Korea, Pinera tweeted that the “brutal and cowardly attack of Daniel Zamudio wounds not only his family but all people of good will.” Added Pinera: “His death will not remain unpunished, and reinforces the complete commitment of the government against all arbitrary discrimination and for a more tolerant country.”
Rolando Jimenez, the leader of Chile’s Gay Liberation and Integration Movement, called for the suspects to be additionally charged with torture.
During a condolence call at the hospital where Zamudio died, Interior Minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter, acting as head of state during Pinera’s absence, promised swift action on hate crimes legislation. “We are going to work tirelessly in our Congress to pass our anti-discrimination law as quickly as possible,” Hinzpeter told reporters on March 27. Zamudio’s alleged attackers range in age from 19 to 26. One of the suspects told police that two attackers carved swastikas into the victim with a broken bottle.