Human Rights NATIONAL

Man sentenced to life in Nicole Saavedra murder case

VALPARAISO – The murderer of Nicole Saavedra was sentenced to life imprisonment as courts heard details of the gruesome crime. Her murderer will be eligible for parole following a minimum 40-year stretch. The court also ruled that the murder was not a hate crime.

In a Quillota courtroom, Judge Mónica Oliva Rybertt handed Victor Pulgar a life sentence for the kidnapping, rape, and murder of Nicole Saavedra in June 2016. “Víctor Alejandro Pulgar Vidal is condemned as the direct and immediate author of the crime of kidnapping with rape and homicide… the penalty imposed is that of a qualified perpetual imprisonment.”

Quillota Chief Prosecutor César Astudillo confirmed that Pulgar will have to serve a minimum of 40 years imprisonment before being eligible for parole. “The court guarantees us that Víctor Pulgar will not be able to leave prison without serving 40 years of deprivation of liberty.”

The Prosecutors Office detailed how Saavedra boarded a minibus driven by the assailant who stole her phone. Pulgar kept her hostage for a week, subduing and weakening her before raping and killing her. The court also concluded that the kidnapping was carried out without the intent of releasing the victim whose body was found abandoned.

The case has been criticized by charities, various other groups, and the LGBTQ+ community for the authorities’ perceived lack of urgency to investigate the murder due to Saavedra being a lesbian. Some groups such as Fisuras Colectivas and Asili Dales, along with some of Saavedra’s family members accused the Carabineros (Chile’s national police force) of not taking the matter seriously. It took three years for the perpetrator to be caught and an additional two years for him to be convicted and sentenced for murder.

The Chief Prosecutor also called the sentencing “a proportional response” in reference to the slow proceeding of the trial and investigation. The prosecutor highlighted that the high sentence was quite unusual but that it “generates a sense of greater security for all of society.”

Not a hate crime

The lawyer representing the deceased, Silvana del Valle, sought to have the murder be treated as a hate crime, taking into account the victim’s sexual orientation. The decision was rejected with Astudillo explaining that the modification was not made as Pulgar actually fit the profile of a serial killer – noting that serial killers are motivated by the exertion of power or dominance rather than hatred for a particular sexual orientation or gender expression, solidifying the categorization of the crime.

Also read:

LGBTQI+ Rights in Chile, Nine Years After Daniel Zamudio’s Murder

Chile LGBTQ+ rights

Chile is behind the rest of Latin America in terms of LGBTQ+ rights. Since the passing of the anti-discrimination law, it has only been applied a handful of times in cases related to members of the community. It is estimated that many hate crimes in Chile are not seen or dealt with as such by the judiciary.

An explanation for this may be due to Chile making recent amendments to its legislation relating to the LGBTQ+ community. It has recently extended the Gender Violence Law to include same-sex couples in 2019 as well as the Anti-Femicide Law (Gabriela’s Law) just last year. Both laws define and detail the rights women have to live a violent-free life with both laws extending their definitions to cover women within the LGBTQ+ community.

At present the Piñera administration is trying to pass an amendment to adoption laws which will extend the definition of parents to include same-sex couples. The bill was passed in the Lower House this past October and now moves on to the Senate. Piñera also reinitiated the same-sex marriage bill this year which is currently being reviewed by the Senates finance committee before moving on to the Lower House.  

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