In a recent unsettling event, Valencia, Venezuela’s third-largest city, witnessed the questionable detention of 33 men from the Avalon Club, a renowned gathering place for the LGBTQ+ community.
Following the mass arrests on July 23rd, the nation’s capital, Caracas, became the site of fiery protests. Thousands raised their voices, demanding the immediate release of the detained individuals.
A petition initiated by the Venezuelan Observatory of LGBTIQ+ Violence has already garnered close to 10,000 signatures. The campaign advocates for a fair trial for the detainees, who are ostensibly facing charges such as “outrage against modesty”, “conspiracy to commit a crime”, and “noise pollution”.
The issue has ignited discussions on the social media platform X, once called Twitter, with individuals expressing their anger using the hashtag #JusticiaParaLos33, translating to #JusticeForThe33.
As reported by Al Jazeera, a majority of the detained, 30 men, were granted “conditional parole” post 72 hours of confinement, implying a requirement to report to the local authorities monthly. The remaining three, including the Avalon Club’s proprietor, were released on August 3rd, ten days after their detention.
Disturbingly, some of the detained men’s photographs, many of whom hadn’t disclosed their sexuality publicly, were illicitly leaked to the local press. These images were maliciously used to associate them with false narratives.
The Venezuelan Observatory of LGBTIQ+ Violence did not hold back in their condemnation, labelling the detentions as “state-sponsored homophobia”.
Their statement read, “Such charges are groundless and merely an attempt to justify discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community. It underscores the significant obstacles faced by LGBTQ+ individuals in Venezuela due to their sexuality or gender identity.”
Despite homosexuality being legal in Venezuela, law enforcement presented items such as condoms and lubricants as incriminating evidence. Venezuela still denies same-sex couples the right to marry and lacks comprehensive legal protections for the LGBTQ+ community compared to their heterosexual counterparts.
The petition features a heartfelt letter to Venezuela’s supreme court, highlighting the distress and outrage over the baseless detentions. The letter emphasizes the inherent homophobia within specific segments of Venezuelan authority, underlining the critical challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community in the nation.
A clarion call for a prejudice-free, transparent trial has been made by the Venezuelan Observatory of LGBTIQ+ Violence. They also seek accountability for the individuals behind the unjust detention and a thorough investigation.
Speaking with PinkNews, Venezuelan LGBTQ+ activist Yendri Velásquez noted, “Only public sentiment can pave the way to justice in Venezuela.” Velásquez stressed the escalating state-driven homophobia and the specific vulnerabilities faced by transgender individuals.
Echoing these concerns, Jau Ramírez, director of SOMOS, a Venezuelan LGBTQ+ rights group, emphasized the case’s significance, given the extended and unjustified detention period. For Ramírez, this situation represents a larger threat to the rights and personal freedoms of all Venezuelans.