Family says Peruvian trans man died in arbitrary detention in Bali

Photo illustration of a body in a morgue. Photo: Katarzyna Białasiewicz
Photo illustration of a body in a morgue. Photo: Katarzyna Białasiewicz

A trans man from Peru drew his last breath after he was arbitrarily detained by police in Bali, the victim’s family said, in what they described as an act of racial discrimination and transphobia.

In a public statement Coconuts received today, the family of Rodrigo Ventosilla, a Harvard fellow, said the victim arrived in Bali on Aug. 6 to celebrate his marriage with his husband Sebastian Marallano. Rodrigo’s Bali trip instantly became a nightmare.

“Rodrigo was detained and accused of being a drug trafficker, for having medication linked to his mental health treatment, for which he had a prescription from healthcare professionals,” the family said.

Sebastian, also trans, who had arrived in Bali prior to Rodrigo, was later detained when he came to assist his husband.

“In order to release them, the police irregularly demanded exorbitant sums of money that increased over the hours, from 13,000 to 100,000 dollars for each one,” the family added.

Both Rodrigo and Sebastian were allegedly deprived of outside communication and the right to legal defense during their detention. 

On Aug. 9, both suffered a “strong decompensation” and were hospitalized, with Rodrigo admitted to the ICU. 

“Despite Rodrigo’s serious condition, in circumstances that have not yet been clarified, they were transferred to another hospital where Rodrigo died on August 11. It should be noted that the Indonesian police obstructed access to the hospital at all times to the lawyers hired by the family, as well as the Harvard students who came to their aid. The family was NEVER able to communicate or know of Rodrigo’s health status/diagnosis,” the statement said,

Indonesian authorities allegedly did not allow an independent necropsy to be performed on Rodrigo’s body, keeping the family in the dark about his cause of death. The family also condemned the Peruvian consul in Bali for allegedly failing to provide assistance to Sebastian and Rodrigo before it was too late.

Sebastian allegedly remained in police detention until Aug. 17, when he was able to return to Peru. The couple’s family confirmed Sebastian’s return to his homeland, as well as the safe return of Rodrigo’s body.

Bali Police reported Rodrigo’s death to the public on Aug. 17 — six days after the fact. In local media reports that misgender and deadname Rodrigo, police said the victim was detained upon arrival in Bali for narcotics possession, including marijuana.

During detention, police said on Aug. 8, Rodrigo consumed pills that were not confiscated that triggered violent vomiting. His condition deteriorated in hospital until Aug. 11, when he died due to “organ failures throughout his body.”

Previously, the Network of LGBTI Litigants of the Americas said Rodrigo was prescribed medical marijuana for mental health reasons. Medical marijuana is illegal under Indonesia’s harsh narcotics laws.

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