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Puerto Rico Launches Hate-crimes Committee

Puerto Rico Launches Hate-crimes Committee


The government of Puerto Rico is launching a special committee to examine the island's recent spate of hate crimes against its LGBT residents.

Attorney General Guillermo Somoza Colombani announced the committee on Saturday, eight years after legislation was passed to establish harsher penalties for those who commit hate crimes based on sexual orientation or gender identity, according to the Associated Press. He also said the data will help develop policies to attend to victims of such crimes.

Pedro Julio Serrano, who was born in Puerto Rico and is now a spokesman for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, says that at least 25 murders of LGBT people have been motivated by sexual orientation or gender identity bias since the law was passed in 2002. One of the high-profile murders was of 19-year-old Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado, who was beheaded and partially burned in November. His murderer, Juan Antonio Martinez Matos, confessed to murdering him, and was sentenced in May to serving 99 years in jail.

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