Protests grow across Mexico after country's 1st nonbinary magistrate found dead

ByConor Finnegan ABCNews logo
Wednesday, November 15, 2023
A demonstrator holds a picture of Aguascalientes state electoral court magistrate Jesús Ociel Baena in Mexico City, Monday, Nov. 13, 2023. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)

MEXICO CITY -- Thousands of angry, mournful protesters gathered in Mexico's capital on Monday night demanding justice for and challenging the preliminary investigation into the death of perhaps the country's most famous openly nonbinary person.

Jesús Ociel Baena was the first openly nonbinary person to assume a judicial position in Mexico -- possibly even the first openly nonbinary person in all of Latin America to do so -- when they became a magistrate on a state court in Aguascalientes in October 2022.

The Aguascalientes state prosecutor's office said Baena was found dead in their apartment on Monday morning alongside Dorian Daniel Nieves, identified by friends as Baena's partner.

Baena was among the most visible LGBTQ+ advocates in the country, often posting on social media in their heels or skirts with a Pride flag fan, including in the courtroom.

Earlier this year, they were also the first Mexican citizen issued a passport noting their nonbinary identity, receiving the document directly from Mexico's foreign secretary in a public ceremony in June.

Baena and Nieves returned home late Sunday night, according to the prosecutor's office, and there were no signs of forced entry at the scene.

"We don't know at this time, according to the authorities' report, what it is about, if it was a homicide or it was some accident," Mexican Security Secretary Rosa Icela Rodríguez said Monday at Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's daily press conference.

"Let's see first before giving information," she added.

While the prosecutor's office pledged to conduct an "objective investigation," they've already ruled out "the presence of a third person on site" and said Monday that all signs point to "an issue of personal nature."

With the cause of death still under investigation, the prosecutor's office said that one of Baena or Nieves was found holding a "cutting instrument."

The state's public security secretary told one local outlet late Monday that it was a razor blade, found in Baena's hands.

Advocates, however, are raising alarms about what they call the premature suggestion that what happened was a so-called crime of passion.

Protesters took to the streets in Mexico City, Aguascalientes and elsewhere on Monday with chants of "Justicia!" and "Crimen pasional, mentira nacional!" -- roughly translated as "crimes of passion" are a "national lie" -- as they clapped Pride fans just like Baena's and pushed for a thorough investigation.

Last year, there were at least 87 killings of LGBTQ+ people because of their identity, according to the Mexican nonprofit Letra S, which estimates the real number is likely even higher. Trans women made up more than half of those reported homicides, according to Letra S.

"The [Mexican] government did not always investigate and punish those complicit in abuses against LGBTQI+ persons, especially outside Mexico City," the U.S. State Department said in its most recent human rights report.

Baena had reported receiving death threats and said they took measures to protect their security, including obtaining an order for state protection in July.

"It's not something that I was happy to share, but the hate speech must be called out," they wrote in a tweet at the time.