Editor’s note: The Washington Blade will publish a Spanish version of this article later on Tuesday.
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — Three police officers in El Salvador have been charged with the murder of a transgender woman who was deported from the U.S.
The three police officers — Carlos Valentín Rosales, Jaime Giovanni Mendoza and Luis Alfredo — with El Salvador’s National Civil Police’s 911 System in San Salvador face charges of deprivation of liberty by an agent of authority and aggravated homicide as a hate crime in connection with Camila Díaz Cordova’s death earlier this year. The three men made their initial court appearance on July 5.
Díaz’s friend, Virginia Flores, told the Washington Blade Díaz was reported missing at the end of January.
Díaz was later found at Rosales National Hospital in San Salvador with multiple injuries. She died there on Feb. 3.
“I am not 100 percent satisfied, because we already know that organized crime, as opposed to common crime, is the most harmful here in El Salvador,” Flores told the Blade.
Flores, who had been close to Díaz since she moved to San Salvador from Santa María Ostuma in La Paz department in 2007. Flores said Díaz became part of her family.
“The police officers’ lawyers allege that Camila was on drugs, which is not true,” Flores told the Blade..
“She was not a person with problems, she kept to herself,” added Flores. “She didn’t even swear and she only drank at home, but to say that she was going to drink on the street … I don’t believe it.”
Asociación ASPIDH Arcoiris Trans in a statement demanded prosecutors use the reformed penal code to ensure this crime does not go unpunished and serves as an example to state agents. The trans Salvadoran advocacy group also demanded prosecutors apply the reformed penal code to every hate crime committed against trans women and members of the LGBTI community.
Díaz deported from US in 2017
Díaz asked for asylum in the U.S. because of violence against LGBTI Salvadorans and the government’s reluctance to defend their rights. The U.S. deported Díaz in 2017.
“The Salvadoran government owes a lot to all of these families who have lost a loved one who was part of the LGBTI community or specifically a trans woman,” Flores told the Blade. “Trans women, out of everyone in the LGBTI community, are the most stigmatized, the most discriminated because the same LGBTI community sometimes discriminates against us.”
LGBTI activists have reacted to the officers’ arrest positively, even though the case will generate uncertainty.
“I think that this symbolizes a big advance in the issue of access to justice, which is one of the most (tenuous issues) for the LGBTI community in El Salvador, especially for trans women who have been targeted for murder and disappearances since the 1990s,” says ASPIDH Arcoiris Trans Programs Coordinator Amalia Leiva.
The Díaz case has had its initial court hearing and will continue through the discovery case.
Flores says she hopes officers who have been arrested will not be released, even though the judge has ordered they remain in custody ahead of their next court appearance, which has not been scheduled. The officers face up to 66 years in prison if convicted of Díaz’s murder.
“I would expect that these people will not go free during the discovery phase, the case would continue to a final judgment, a trial, and that they will be convicted there,” said Flores.