Police in Venezuela’s Carabobo state on Sunday raided a gay sauna and arrested 33 people.
A Venezuelan activist told the Washington Blade the arrests in Valencia, which is the country’s third largest city, took place “without a search warrant, without due process” and violated “the fundamental rights of 33 Venezuelan adults who were in full use of their mental and physical faculties.”
“[They were subjected to] degrading treatment,” said the activist. “[The police] deprived them of their liberty and subjected them to public ridicule.”
One local media report indicates an “orgy” was taking place during a “sex party” at the sauna when the raid took place.
The report indicates one of the participants who police arrested lives with HIV. It also said party organizers planned to sell videos of the men having sex they recorded.
The activist with whom the Blade spoke said a judge on Wednesday released 30 of the 33 men who were arrested and ordered them to report to authorities every 30 days until they go to trial. The activist noted the sauna’s owner and two masseurs will remain in custody until they are able to pay bail.
Discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation, gender identity and HIV is commonplace in Venezuela, a South American country that remains in the midst of an ongoing political and economic crisis.
Members of Venezuela’s General Directorate of Military Counterintelligence in January 2021 raided the offices of Azul Positivo, an HIV/AIDS service organization and arrested the group’s president and five other staff members. Police on Feb. 15, 2019, raided the offices of Fundación Mavid, another HIV/AIDS service organization in Valencia, and arrested three staffers after they confiscated donated infant formula and medications for people with HIV/AIDS.
Caribe Afirmativo and Fundación de Atención Inclusiva, Social y Humana (FUVADIS) are among the advocacy groups in neighboring Colombia that continue to work with LGBTQ and intersex Venezuelans who have fled their country in recent years.
“Persecution against LGBTIQ+ people in Venezuela is increasing,” said the Venezuelan Education-Action Program on Human Rights (PROVEA), a Venezuelan human rights organization, in a tweet.
“We reiterate the need for due process, the right to private counsel and that every person knows the reasons for their detention,” added PROVEA. “To be homosexual is not a crime.”
The Washington Blade courtesy of the National LGBTQ Media Association.