Protests Erupt After Suspected Arson Attack Leaves Three Lesbians Dead In Argentina

Witnesses say the perpetrator had previously threatened the victims and threw a Molotov cocktail inside their room that night.

Earlier this month, a fire at a Buenos Aires boarding home left three lesbians dead and another injured. An Argentine criminal court is investigating the incident, according to NBC News. Police say 68-year-old neighbor Justo Fernando Barrientos set fire to the room, but have not confirmed it was intentional.

The women who died in the fire have been identified as Mercedes Roxana Figueroa, 52, Pamela Fabiana Cobbas, 52, and Andrea Amarante, 42. The injured woman is Sofia Castro Riglos, 49. She remains in a local hospital and is expected to live. The four women shared a room and two are believed to be a couple.

While the incident has not yet legally been deemed as arson, witnesses and local media say that the man intentionally set fire to the room and had plans to harm the women. Witnesses say Barrientos had previously threatened the victims and threw a Molotov cocktail inside their room that night, according to Them. The entire building quickly went up in flames after.

Barrientos was arrested and taken to a separate hospital with a self-inflicted neck injury. He has been discharged and remains in police custody.

Local LGBTQ+ organizations have been in an uproar. Many activists have pointed out that Barrientos knew the victims, and had allegedly threatened to harm them in the past because of their sexual identities. Argentina is known as a relatively-good climate for queer people. Same-sex sexual relations, marriage equality, and adoption of children by same-sex couples are all legal, according to Outright International. But activists are voicing concern over President Javier Milei’s administration, who took office last year. He has shut down the Ministry of Women, Gender and Diversity, among other programs.

“Hate crimes are the result of a culture of violence and discrimination, sustained by hate speech currently endorsed by several government officials,” the LGBT Federation said in a statement. “The only spaces to which those of us who are victims of these attacks can resort are being emptied or eliminated by the current government. … We will support them and help them and their families in whatever they need, and will follow the case in court so justice is served.”

Protestors filled the streets last week, holding pride flags and signs calling the attack ‘lesbophobic.’

Activists have requested that hate crime provisions be added to the charges for Barrientos, who has been arrested and charged with murder.

 


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