Authorities are investigating a suspected arson attack that killed three lesbians in Argentina

By LG Staff

By LG Staff

May 21, 2024

A fire at a Buenos Aires hotel that resulted in the deaths of three women and left another injured is under investigation, an Argentine criminal court confirmed to NBC News on Friday. Local LGBTQ groups have identified the victims as lesbians.

The court named the three women who died in the May 6 fire as Mercedes Roxana Figueroa, Pamela Fabiana Cobbas, and Andrea Amarante; the injured woman was identified as Sofia Castro Riglos. Contact information for the prosecutor’s office assigned to the case was not immediately available.

The suspect has been identified as Justo Fernando Barrientos. The investigation is ongoing, but local media reported that Barrientos deliberately set fire to the room where the women were staying, causing damage to other parts of the building. LGBTQ groups in Argentina believe the attack was a hate crime.

Protesters took to the streets in Buenos Aires following the incident, some carrying Pride flags and signs calling the attack “lesbophobic.” Others criticized President Javier Milei, who, upon taking office last year, shut down the Ministry of Women, Gender, and Diversity, among other government programs.

At a news conference on Monday, Manuel Adorni, a spokesperson for Milei, described the attack as “terrible” but expressed reluctance to define it as targeting a specific group. He also responded to a tweet that labeled the attack as “lesbicide” with an image of a Spanish dictionary, noting that the term did not exist.

Maribe Sgariglia, the secretary for international relations at Federación Argentina LGBT, said in an email to NBC News that the organization has been in contact with the surviving victim.

“Currently, along with other organizations and activists, we are working to secure the necessary help and support so that the surviving woman has a place to live and state support to move forward,” Sgariglia wrote in Spanish.

In a statement posted to Instagram on May 6, the group described the incident as “one of the most abhorrent hate crimes in recent years” and noted that the women were living at the hotel where the attack occurred.

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