Tuesday’s death of a 24-year-old gay student, who spent weeks in a coma after he was savagely tortured by neo-Nazis in Santiago, has triggered calls for lawmakers to introduce tougher penalties for hate crimes.
The case of Daniel Zamudio has made an enormous impact on Chilean society. Hundreds of people lit candles outside Posta Central, the main emergency hospital in Santiago where Zamudio died.
“This is the most serious crime that has occurred in this country in 20 years,” said Jaime Silva, the Zamudio family lawyer. Four suspects in custody face a minimum of 40 years in prison for Zamudio’s murder.
On the morning of March 3 as he was leaving a club, Zamudio was attacked by neo-Nazis who kicked him and burned cigarettes on his body. They cut off one of his ears, and used a broken bottle to carve out swastikas on his back and chest. He was taken to a hospital where doctors induced a coma to stabilize his condition. Five days later, Zamudio opened his eyes but a week later suffered a heart attack caused by a brain injury.
Jaime Parada, leader of the pro-homosexual organization Movih, called for better laws to protect gays from homophobia while Santiago Mayor Pablo Zalaquett announced better security patrols in areas used by homosexuals.