11/15/2023 (written by lcalderon) – On Monday, November 13th, Magistrate Jesús Ociel Baena Saucedo (they/them) and their partner Dorian Daniel Nava Herrera were found dead inside their apartment. Baena’s body had at least 20 different stab wounds, including a lethal one in their neck, around the jugular.
Who was Jesús Ociel Baena?
Baena Saucedo was the first openly non-binary lawyer to have a high-level judiciary position in the in Latin America. They were an activist for LGBTQIA+ rights and became a Magistrate for the Electoral Court for the State of Aguascalientes (Tribunal Electoral del Estado de Aguascalientes) in 2022. Baena centered LGBTQIA+ representation in their work inside the National Electoral Institute (Instituto Nacional Electoral, INE). They implemented the “Rainbow Quota ” (Cuota Arcoiris) initiative, encouraging the INE to hire LGBTQIA+ employees, as well as senior citizens over the age of 60 and people with disabilities. They also worked with the INE to bolster the political rights of LGBTQIA+ people, seeking to include candidates from the community in the 2023-2024 electoral cycle using the slogan: “Elections without inclusion are just a simulation!” (¡Elección sin inclusión es pura simulación!). Baena also contributed to the expansion of rights of non-binary people by having the INE include a non-binary option for sex self-identification in all official identification cards. Additionally, they were the first person to have a Mexican passport with non-binary gender identity. Baena was also a renowned social media influencer, generating content to create awareness of LGBTQIA+ political, electoral, and human rights.
On Tuesday morning, president Andrés Manuel López Obrador expressed his sadness due to Baena’s death during his morning conference. Shortly after, Félix Arturo Medina Padilla, Deputy Secretary for Human Rights, Population and Migration (Subsecretario de Derechos Humanos, Población y Migración), announced that the federal government will follow the investigation closely, emphasizing that they will ensure it follows the gender perspective required for LGBTQIA+ cases. By Wednesday, November 15th, Jesús Figueroa Ortega, District Attorney in Aguascalientes, declared that their main line of investigation follows a personal approach and not that of a hate crime. According to their investigation, the D.A.’s office believes Dorian Nava, Baena’s partner, killed Baena with a razor blade and committed suicide afterward. Figueroa stated that Baena’s body was found with at least 20 stab wounds, while Nava’s had two visible wounds in his hands. Additionally, the D.A. ‘s office revealed that Nava’s body tested positive for narcotics, specifically methamphetamines. As a result, the prosecution believes the couple had a heated dispute that led to the lethal ending.
The news of Baena’s homicide immediately shocked society. Organizations throughout the country quickly organized peaceful demonstrations and protests to demand a thorough investigation of Baena and Nava’s killing, especially after learning that Baena had reported receiving multiple violent threats against them. In fact, Baena had recently solicited special protection mechanisms. Family members of Baena, including their sister Cinthya Baena, disqualified the D.A. ‘s theory regarding the killing of her sibling, emphasizing that both Jesús Ociel and Dorian Daniel were very calm and peaceful, and had no history of violence (Animal Politico). Cinthya also revealed that just a few days before Jesús Ociel’s death, they told her that they had been receiving more death threats. Furthermore, Cynthia declared that the D.A.’s office has not been in contact with the family to inform them about the investigation. Members of the civil society agree that the D.A. ‘s office announced their theory of the case too soon, resulting in revictimization for Baena and Nava. In an interview with The New York Times, Cristian González Cabrera, an LGBTQIA+ rights researcher for Human Rights Watch, declared that “it is disappointingly common in Mexico for prosecutors to share information before a probe is finished… Shaping the narrative around the case without all the facts” (Romero and Rodríguez Mega).
The National Commission for Human Rights (Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos, CNDH), publicly criticized the Aguascalientes D.A.’s office, urging them to conduct an adequate investigation, integrating the Magistrate’s gender identity and previous threats to their life. Additionally, the CNDH initiated a complaint against the prosecutor’s office for the inadequate handling of the case. Furthermore, the commission also demanded that the investigation integrates the national protocol for criminal cases that involve LGBTQIA+ communities. This protocol, established in 2018, attempts to standardize the application of gender perspective in the investigation and prosecution of cases related to LGBTQIA+ issues, as well as ensuring equal access to justice for the community. Within the protocol, personnel from all the prosecutors offices in Mexico must conduct exhaustive investigations free of stereotypes and discrimination and never underestimate or omit a serious line of investigation in a crime committed against a member of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Violence against LGBTQIA+ communities in Mexico
According to The New York Times, Mexico ranks second for the highest number of hate crimes against the LGBTQIA+ community. Based on data gathered by the nonprofit organization Letra S, at least 87 LGBTQIA+ people were killed in 2022 because of their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression (Brito, et.al), from which 55.2% were trans women; 25.3% were gay men; 12.6% lesbians/gay women; 1.1% trans men; and about 2.3% were unspecified.
Interestingly, Brito’s report identified at least 25 cases where the victim was murdered inside their homes; and at least 15 cases where the bodies were stabbed to death. Baena’s death comes just 4 months after the homicide of Ulises Nava, a LGBTQIA+ activist and academic from the Autonomous University of Guerrero (Universidad Autónoma de Guerrero, UAGro) who was shot in Aguascalientes outside a museum. Nava was killed shortly after attending the National Congress on Strategic Litigation for Rainbow Quotas (Congreso Nacional de Litigio Estratégico para Cuotas Arcoiris) (Animal Político). In the words of Alejandro Brito, from Letra S, Baena was “breaking the invisibility circle” surrounding the LGBTQIA+ community, “it is impossible to investigate [their homicide] without taking their context into account.” (Lancaster Online).
Descanse en poder, Magistrade.
To learn more about violence against LGBTQIA+ communities in Mexico, read this report by Letra S.