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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

PDP leaders speak after being called out for silence following statements by Ponce first lady

The Popular Democratic Party officials spoke publicly after human rights activist Pedro Julio Serrano earlier on Tuesday demanded that the leaders of the party express themselves on what he said were homophobic statements made by the Ponce first lady.

By John McPhaul

Popular Democratic Party (PDP) President José Luis Dalmau Santiago and the candidates to preside over the party, Jesús Manuel Ortiz, Carmen Maldonado González and Luis Javier Hernández Ortiz, reacted on Tuesday to the controversy generated by the statements of Ponce first lady Miyady Velázquez Pagán about some members of the LBGTTQ + community.

“The statements were made by the First Lady [of Ponce] and the mayor [Luis Manuel Irizarry Pabón] said he felt her feelings,” Dalmau Santiago said at a press conference. “They are the ones who have to answer the arguments that were established there.”

The response of the PDP officials came after human rights activist Pedro Julio Serrano on Tuesday demanded that the leaders of the party express themselves on what he said were homophobic statements made by the Ponce first lady.

“Not only have they remained silent without condemning the homophobic statements of the First Lady of Ponce, but they also do not denounce the Mayor’s statements that homosexuality is a behavior with a language of ‘love the sinner and not sin,’” Serrano said. “As if that were not enough, they remain silent in the face of possible discrimination against openly gay singer José Alfredo, who was denied participation in an event in Ponce. This is unacceptable, especially on the part of those who aspire to lead that party.”

According to local press reports, during a recent interview on the podcast “Un Cura de Barrio,” hosted on YouTube by Father Orlando Lugo Pérez, the priest asked Velázquez Pagán why she called homosexuals “confused.” The Ponce first lady replied that she runs a group “similar to Alcoholics Anonymous … where I don’t go and grab you by the hair and tell you ‘Come away because you’re homosexual, you have to be here.’ No. You come with a cry for help.”

“I have had the opportunity to work with people [LGBTQ+] who feel limited, tied down or abused or who chose that method [homosexuality] because they were abused at a very young age …” Velázquez Pagán continued in the interview. “When you care for them they are people who are hurt, injured, raped, violated. … Those that I have attended to.”

Serrano said in a statement early on Tuesday that “After briefly dismissing the homophobic statements of his wife, Miyady Velázquez Pagán, the Mayor of Ponce, Luis Irizarry Pabón, said ‘We are not homophobic, we love every human being. We don’t necessarily support behavior, but we love the human being God has created.’”

“Mayor, the sin is not homosexuality, the sin is homophobia. Being who you are and loving who you love can never be sins. Discriminating, violating and attacking the dignity of LGBTQ+ people is,” Serrano said. “In your response, Mayor, there is no apology. There is no attempt to make amends. It makes no reference to the harm caused by such statements. They don’t talk about the discrimination that entails. Nothing. Hollow and trite words, full of condemnation and fundamentalism. We want action. That the Municipality of Ponce makes a public policy, in writing and by municipal ordinance –- with the signature of the mayor –- that no one will be discriminated against based on sexual orientation or gender identity. That would be what is appropriate, not words that are carried away by the wind and much less words that classify homosexuality as behavior.”

Later on Tuesday, PDP Rep. Jesús Manuel Ortíz González directly rejected the statements made by the Ponce first couple.

“I respect the position they may have, but my position is totally opposite,” he said. “I do not agree with that statement and it seems to me that our party is one of tradition and defense of human rights.”

Meanwhile, Maldonado González said “the words of the [PDP] comrades are respected, but I do not agree with that. We have to be an inclusive party.”

Hernández Ortiz noted that “on Sunday a person from the LBGTTQ+ community will be chosen to occupy a seat on the PDP Governing Board.”

“I believe that the discourse of marking or labeling someone, wherever they come from, is wrong,” he said.

The outgoing president of the PDP, Dalmau Santiago, confirmed that so far, Harry Román has been the only person who has settled to occupy the chair representing the LBGTTQ+ community.

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