October 1, 2020 at 12:31 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Another transgender person murdered in Puerto Rico
Michelle “Michellyn” Ramos Vargas (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

Authorities in Puerto Rico on Wednesday confirmed another transgender person has been murdered in the U.S. commonwealth.

The Associated Press reported the body of Michelle “Michellyn” Ramos Vargas, 33, was found along a highway in San Germán, a municipality in southwest Puerto Rico.  

Puerto Rican media reports indicate Ramos had been shot several times. Officials told the Associated Press they are investigating whether Ramos’ murder was a hate crime.

Ramos is the sixth trans person murdered in Puerto Rico since the beginning of the year.

Alexa Negrón Luciano, a homeless trans woman, was killed in Toa Baja on Feb. 24.

Penélope Díaz Ramírez, a trans woman, was killed in a jail in the San Juan suburb of Bayamón on April 13. Authorities in Humacao on April 22 found the bodies of two trans women, Serena Angelique Velázquez and Layla Pelaez, in Pelaez’s car that had been set on fire.

Yampi Méndez Arocho, a trans man, was killed in Moca on March 5.

The two men accused of killing Velázquez and Pelaez have been charged under the federal hate crimes law.

Puerto Rico’s hate crimes law includes both sexual orientation and gender identity, but local prosecutors rarely apply it. Activists have sharply criticized outgoing Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced and other pro-statehood New Progressive Party lawmakers over their response to the murders, anti-LGBTQ hate crimes and general violence towards LGBTQ Puerto Ricans.

“They are violating us, they are hunting us and they are killing us while Wanda Vázquez and her government turn a blind eye,” said Pedro Julio Serrano, founder of Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, a Puerto Rican LGBTQ advocacy group, in a statement.

Tori Cooper, director of community engagement for the Human Rights Campaign’s Transgender Justice Initiative, in a statement notes Ramos is one of three trans women who have been reported killed in the U.S. in less than two weeks.

“This level of violence—any level of violence—is unacceptable,” said Cooper in a statement. “We are not doing enough to protect transgender and gender non-conforming people, especially trans women.”

Latino Commission on AIDS President Guillermo Chacón in a statement added “transphobia is not unique to Puerto Rico.”

“We see it throughout the U.S. and need to make a commitment to stop the consequences of hate and violence,” he said. “Zero tolerance to hate and violence. Zero transphobia. Justice for Michellyn.”

Arianna’s Center, a South Florida-based trans advocacy group that works in Puerto Rico, also mourned Ramos.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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