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Shock, blames as man in Argentina set 4 lesbians ablaze

It happened at a boarding house in the Barracas neighborhood of Buenos Aires, where Pamela Fabiana Cobas, Mercedes Roxana Figueroa...

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Shock, blames as man in Argentina set 4 lesbians ablaze

It was an attack that sent shockwaves through a country long considered a pioneer in gay rights. In the early hours of 6 May four lesbian women were set on fire in Argentina. Only one of them survived.

It happened at a boarding house in the Barracas neighborhood of Buenos Aires, where Pamela Fabiana Cobas, Mercedes Roxana Figuero, Andrea Amarante and Sofía Castro Riglo were sharing a room. Witnesses say a man broke in and threw an incendiary device that set the women on fire.

Pamela died soon after. Her partner Roxana died days later of organ failure. Andrea died on May 12 in a hospital.

Andrea’s partner, Sofía, was the sole survivor. She spent weeks recovering in hospital and is alive today only because Andrea threw herself on top of her to shield her from the flames, Sofia’s attorney, Gabriela Conder, told CNN.“ Her partner saved her,” Conder said.

Local Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) rights advocates condemned the attack as a hate crime and lesbicide, saying the women were targeted because of their sexual identity.

Police have arrested a 62-year-old man who lived in the building but, according to Conder, they are not currently treating the incident as a hate crime as they say the motive is still unclear.

For Argentina’s LGBTQ groups – many of whom are planning to commemorate the four women with a rally this weekend – the attack represents an extreme manifestation of what they consider a growing wave of hostility against them.

Those they blame most for this rising intolerance are the people in power. Chief among them, they say, is the country’s new far-right leader Javier Milei.

READ ALSO: Jilted man arrested for setting newlyweds ablaze

“Things changed with the new government of Javier Milei,” said Maria Rachid, head of the Institute Against Discrimination of the Ombudsman’s Office in Buenos Aires, and a board member and founder of the Argentine LGBT Federation (FALGBT).

“Since the beginning of the new government, there are national government officials expressing themselves in a discriminatory manner and those hate speeches before our communities from places with so much power, of course, what they do is generate – actually legitimise – and endorse these discriminatory positions that are then expressed with violence and discrimination in everyday life,” Rachid said.

When President Milei ran for president in 2023, he and his party were accused of making offensive remarks against LGBTQ communities which were deemed hate speech by multiple groups, including Argentina’s National Observatory of LGBTQ Hate Crimes.

In a YouTube interview ahead of the November election, Milei insisted that he does not oppose same-sex marriage, but in that same interview, he went on to compare homosexuality to having sex with animals.

“What do I care what your sexual preference is? If you want to be with an elephant, and you have the consent of that elephant, that’s a problem between you and the elephant,” he said. This statement has angered LGBTQ communities, who called the comments dehumanising.

Proofreading, editing by Uji A. ILIYASU, Editor at Neptune Prime

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