Friday, 30 September 2011

Video: Mexican gay activist fleeing persecution surfaces in San Diego

By Paul Canning

The Mexican gay activist Agustín Estrada Negrete has surfaced in San Diego, local TV news reports, and is claiming asylum.

We reported earlier this month on how Negrete and his lawyer had faced severe persecution, rape and death threats in the state of Mexico (which surrounds Mexico City) for their activist work.

Negrete was forced to step down from the position as director and founder of a local school, Centro de Atención Múltiple (CAM), for disabled children in 2007 due to false allegations by fellow staff against him that he had gone to the school dressed as a woman. He had in fact been pictured in newspapers at a LGBT rights march in the nearby city of Ecatepec de Morelos dressed as 'Alban' in La Cage Aux Folles.

At a meeting with state authorities in 2009 with supportive parents, Negrete was arrested and assaulted by police. Taken to a maximum security prison, Negrete was told that “El Gobernador del Estado México no te quiere por maricon, te vamos a desaparecer” (the Governor of the State of Mexico doesn’t like faggots, we’re going to make you disappear”). At the jail he was verbally and physically assaulted again and then sexually assaulted by men who covered their faces so as not to be identified.

After he was released, he continued to receive death threats and four months later men broke into a house he was in hiding in and he was raped with a metal tube and left for dead, a plastic bag over his head. The next week he was stabbed by men wearing State police uniforms. The following day he reported the incident to the authorities, who closed the door when they saw him arriving. On 22 November 2009 unknown individuals spray-painted the wall beside his sister's home with messages saying “Agustín vete, vas a morir putato” (Agustín leave, you are going to die whore).

Negrete in an interview with French gay magazine Tetu claimed that his former lover was the State of Mexico politician and candidate of the right-wing PRI for State Governor Eruviel Ávila Villegas. "They did everything to silence me because it is important that Eruviel Ávila is not out of the closet," he said. He said that he was approached to negotiate his silence, "but after the rape I suffered, I do not want to negotiate."

He had reported the assaults and called on the National Commission for Human Rights, Consejo Para Prevenir la Discriminación- CONAPRED (the Council for the Prevention of Discrimination), the Minister for Education and the Minister for Health, among others, to take action. But the complaint wasn't accepted - Negrete was told “we are not allowed to take any declaration from you” - and warned not to continue with the particular complaint if he wanted to remain alive.

US asylum is reportedly becoming harder for LGBT Mexicans because of a perception amongst US authorities that legal progress, such as gay marriage in Mexico City, means that the country is safe for LGBT. It is unclear whether Negrete has faced problems with his asylum case because of this changed attitude and the legal circuit is which he has claimed is understood to be the most accepting of LGBT asylum claims in the United States.

There is a petition to the Mexican authorities regarding Negrete's treatment.

Negrete is being supported by Patti Bowman, co-president of PFLAG San Diego. She told local TV:
"I'm getting involved because I fear for his life. If he goes back, he will be imprisoned or tortured or worse."

"I'm scared, but if I could go back in time, I would wear that dress again … and add a rainbow," said Estrada Negrete.
Negrete said that he has been interviewed about his claim and is expecting to receive a decision in about a month.
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