Daniel Zamudio, RIP

He was 24 years old, worked as a clothing salesman and hoped to study theatre.  On March 3 he was attacked in a Santiago park by a group of men who beat him, burned him with cigarettes and carved Nazi swastikas on his body.  And on Tuesday, 25 days after the homophobic attack, Daniel Zamudio died.

Crowds of Chileans have been holding a vigil for him outside the hospital where he was kept in a medically induced coma. You can read some of the press coverage here http://www.kansascity.com/2012/03/28/3519425/killing-of-gay-man-moves-chile.html#storylink=cpy  and here http://ilovechile.cl/2012/03/28/neonazi-discriminative-attacks-lead-death/51659.

“This is what happens in this country you love so much,” an embittered Chilean colleague e mailed me today.  I told her I still loved Chile, and then we began one of those inane exchanges about whether her country was less tolerant than my country, the United States. I recalled the brutal killing of Matthew Shepard, a gay student at the University of Wyoming, whose attackers left him tied to a fence. The murder was bad enough, but then at Shepard’s funeral the nasty Reverend Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas appeared with his followers with signs reading “Fag Matt in Hell” and “No Tears for Queers.”

Ok, that was back in 1999.  Have things improved since then? Reviewing the comments of certain U.S. public figures, one might have doubts.  Back in Chile, authorities are seeking murder charges against the four suspects, some of whom have criminal records for attacks on gays in the past. The president of Chile, Sebastian Piñera, is a member of a conservative political party, but most definitely not a cultural conservative—one of his television campaign ads featured a gay couple holding hands, prompting his opponent’s campaign organizers to rush out and find a gay couple willing to appear in one of their ads. He says his government “will not rest” until the Chilean Congress passes hate crime legislation.

Stay tuned.