- Camila Díaz Córdova would still be alive today if US immigration had believed her claims that she was in danger.
A judge has found three police officers guilty of the killing of a trans sex worker in El Salvador and given each 20 years in prison.
It is the first successful homicide conviction for the killing of a transgender person in the Central American country.
El Salvador continues to see high levels of LGBT+ murders, in particular trans murders. Between October 2019 and April this year, the country saw the homicides of at least seven trans women and two gay men. The evidence suggests the killers were motivated by hatred.
In this case, three police officers arrested 29-year-old trans woman Camila Díaz Córdova early in the morning of 31 January 2019. They were responding to a public order complaint.
Prosecutors said the officers then brutally assaulted her and threw her out of the moving vehicle.
Díaz Córdova died from her injuries on February 3 at Rosales National Hospital in San Salvador.
The court heard evidence against the officers including their vehicle’s GPS tracking data, where Díaz Córdova was found and her autopsy report. The judge in San Salvador sentenced them on 28 July.
In a further twist, it emerged in the weeks after her death that Camila had claimed asylum in the US in August 2017 fearing for her life in El Salvador.
However, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities detained her. They didn’t accept she was in danger and deported her in November of the same year. Camila’s friends say ICE tricked her into signing the paperwork.
One of just two anti-trans deaths in a week
José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch, welcomed the verdict:
‘This landmark ruling is much needed in a country where LGBT Salvadorans and their families rarely see justice for violent crimes.
‘The outcome of Camila’s case sends a powerful message to Salvadoran society that anti-LGBT violence will not be tolerated.’
As GSN reported at the time, Camila’s murder was the first of two trans killings in just one week in El Salvador.
The second victim, Lolita, died on 8 February after a group attacked her with a machete.
Symbolic murders including burning and crucifixion
Indeed, Salvadorian anti-LGBT+ killers tend to carry out particularly brutal and symbolic murders.
For example people found trans woman Victoria Pineda naked in the city of Ahuachapán in November 2019.
Attackers had disfigured her face and covered her body in logs and a car tire. Bianka Rodríguez of trans rights organization COMCAVIS believes they ‘crucified’ Victoria with the tire symbolizing a crown of thorns and the logs the cross.
Meanwhile people found Tita Andrade, another trans woman, in March 2020 in the city of La Unión. She had burns over 90% of her body.
The Salvadoran Legislative Assembly changed the country’s Penal Code in 2015 to recognize LGBT+ murders as ‘aggravated homicides’. They now can attract up to 70 years in prison.
However, prosecutors have tried to classify just three LGBT+ killings as hate crimes since then. One was Díaz Córdova’s murder.
In the end, judges dismissed the additional hate crimes charges as there was insufficient evidence. However, the case remains a breakthrough for trans Salvadorians as the first successful conviction for the homicide of a trans person.