Rodrigo Ventocilla and Sebastián Marallano, during their civil marriage, on May 24, 2022, in Chile. Courtesy (Family Ventocilla)
Peruvian trans couples Sebastián Marallano and Rodrigo Ventocilla traveled to Indonesia for their honeymoon on August 6 on separate flights. When the police saw the difference between Rodrigo’s gender identity and the data on his identity document, the problems began, according to his lawyers and relatives. He was detained at the airport after candy and cannabis pills were found in his luggage. According to his partner, when he tried to help him, the agents physically and psychologically mistreated them, kept them incommunicado, and made them ingest the pills. Suffering a decompensation and vomiting, they were taken to a hospital. Rodrigo, a 34-year-old economist, died in the medical center five days later.
The lawyers of the relatives of the couple have denounced this Monday for torture Indonesian officials and the Peruvian consul in Indonesia. They claim that the airport police acted out of transphobia against them. Ventocilla was a leader of the transgender community in Peru and had founded the Diversidades Trans Masculinas association in Lima. Both were married at the end of May in Chile, accompanied by some relatives, given the non-existence in Peru of civil marriage for people of non-binary gender.
Ventocilla was studying for a master’s degree at the Harvard University School of Public Management (in Cambridge, USA) and had completed an internship at an NGO in Johannesburg on gender equity and social inclusion. According to spokesman Luzmo Henríquez, the prejudiced and discriminatory behavior of the Indonesian police began when they saw that the official data of the economist’s document did not correspond to his gender identity, and from there the arrest and search of the belongings took place. of the. “Rodrigo was arrested for his gender expression at the Denpasar airport, when searching his suitcase traces of cannabis and mental health medications were found,” the team that accompanies the family in the investigation reported on Tuesday. search for justice.
According to a statement from the Indonesian Embassy in Peru released this Tuesday, the arrest occurred because he was carrying 230 grams of cannabis in brownies, gummies and pills. “According to Indonesian law, all people are prohibited from possessing or consuming class I drugs (marijuana) for any purpose,” says the document made public one day after lawyers Brenda Álvarez and Julio Arbizu filed the complaint for torture before the Public Ministry in Lima.
The victims’ spokespersons maintain that after the economist’s arrest, Marallano went to help him and was kidnapped by the police from the drug investigation department despite the fact that there was no charge against him. Versions of what followed differ from party to party. Relatives who were in communication with the couple and their lawyers say that the police first asked them for $13,000 and then $100,000 each to release them, and then left them incommunicado for a day in police custody.
There, they maintain, they suffered “physical and psychological abuse, and were pushed to take the pills for which they were arrested,” indicates the statement that the family protection team shared this Tuesday. On August 9, the relatives received information that both had suffered a decompensation and that Rodrigo had been admitted to a hospital intensive care unit. He was subsequently transferred to another health center where he died on August 11.
Join EL PAÍS to follow all the news and read without limits.
The Peruvian consul arrived at the hospital a day after the death. The first version of the Peruvian Foreign Ministry, in a statement dated August 24, says that the arrest “would not have corresponded to acts of racial discrimination and transphobia” but to the fact that in the belongings of one of the citizens, the airport customs found ” in addition to the pills with their respective medical prescription, objects that contained traces of cannabis, as well as various products made with said substance. The Ministry further argued that the consular section acted with “due diligence.”
However, the Indonesian embassy in Lima alleges that Marallano was not arrested and that he was allowed to accompany his partner “for humanitarian considerations since Rodrigo had mental health problems.” The Indonesian legation maintains that on August 8 they took the spouses to receive first aid at the Bhayangkara hospital because they were both vomiting, and that according to the diagnosis it was due to the intake of medications and marijuana. In addition, it adds that Rodrigo’s death, according to the medical report, was due to “multiple organ failure” caused by intoxication. According to this version, “they decided to consume an overdose of pills at the invitation of Ventocilla until they finally vomited.”
The families ask the Prosecutor’s Office to also investigate the Peruvian consul in Indonesia, Julio Tenorio, for torture, because he did not provide assistance despite the fact that two relatives contacted him as soon as the couple was able to communicate their arrest and when they learned that they were being extorted by the police to free them, explained attorney Alvarez. According to Arbizu, the Peruvian official would be responsible for committing the crime by omission.
Álvarez explained to EL PAÍS that Tenorio responded on August 7 to a relative that he was in Jakarta, he only traveled to Bali on August 12, the day after Rodrigo’s death. The complainants and the Government of Indonesia also differ regarding the lack of autopsy. On August 23, the family’s spokespersons reported that the Indonesian authorities did not allow an “independent autopsy” to be carried out, while the Embassy of that country in Peru reports a written statement —from a representative of the Ventocilla family— with refusal to perform autopsy. The relatives and lawyers of the victims demand an autopsy from the Prosecutor’s Office as soon as the remains arrive in Lima, and this Wednesday they will hold a sit-in at the main headquarters of the Public Ministry to demand justice.
Marallano was able to return to Lima thanks to the efforts of his sister, who traveled to Indonesia after small groups of the LGTBI community organized activities to pay for airfare. Before starting his postgraduate studies, Ventocilla worked in the Ministry of Education as an advisor to the direction of the Bicentennial public schools —where the most outstanding students in the country study— and was an official in the Ministry of Economy of Peru.
Follow all the international information on Facebook and Twitter, or in our weekly newsletter.