MEXICO CITY (CN) — Authorities in Aguascalientes, Mexico found the body of Jesús Ociel Baena Saucedo, the first openly nonbinary judge in Latin America, in their home on Monday morning.
Baena was 38 years old. Alongside their body, according to the state attorney general's office, was the body of their partner, Dorian Herrera. Both showed signs of violence with a knife or blunt instrument.
State police chief Manuel Alonso García appeared to contradict the attorney general’s office, reportedly stating that no signs of violence were found at the scene.
Baena took office in October 2022. An outspoken proponent of LGBTQ+ rights, they regularly posted photos and videos of themself with a rainbow hand fan and wearing skirts, high heels and other women’s garments. They also took on issues of LGBTQ+ rights like securing same sex marriage and improving living conditions for transgender children in their judgeship.
Their activism led to death threats and other forms of discrimination. In July, Baena was placed under federal protection. Initial reports stated that a guard assigned to protect them made the discovery Monday morning.
The news hit as Mexico’s LGBTQ+ community was already mourning activist Ulises Nava, who was killed in Aguascalientes in July.
Baena’s death is representative of a "crucial moment" for the community, said Víctor Espíndola, executive director of the nonprofit Movement for Equality in Mexico.
“We join the call for justice, the call for the truth,” he said in a phone interview. “In this particular case, we’re asking that the investigation be conducted with all existing protocols for hate crime investigations with a sexual diversity perspective.”
While authorities have not yet stated whether or not the apparent killing appeared to have been motivated by hatred based on Baena’s gender identity, Espíndola said the optics of the situation indicate a “climate of hate prior to their death.”
In June, Baena filed an official complaint against Senator Martha Márquez Alvarado after she called for them not to visit schools and “spread their gender ideology.”
Mexico’s legal community received the news of Baena’s death “with much concern,” said Javier Martín Reyes, a law professor at Mexico’s National Autonomous University.
“It’s a very delicate issue, horrible,” Reyes said.
For him and others in his field, the threats to Baena leading up to their death were clear.
“Because of the judge’s public relevance, because of the visibility that they brought to the issue of gender identity, this investigation must be impeccable,” Reyes said. “There should not be any doubt as to the motive for their death.”Follow @copycopeland
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