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Outpouring in Chile over gay man's death

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 3:46 PM EDT, Fri March 30, 2012
A girl leaves a flower this week next to messages in support of Daniel Zamudio outside a Santiago, Chile, hospital.
A girl leaves a flower this week next to messages in support of Daniel Zamudio outside a Santiago, Chile, hospital.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Hundreds of mourners line streets for Daniel Zamudio's funeral procession
  • The United Nations is calling for an anti-discrimination law in Chile
  • Zamudio, 24, was attacked in a park March 3; he died Tuesday
  • His death has reignited the debate over hate crime legislation

(CNN) -- The issue of hate crime legislation has gripped Chilean leaders as one family on Friday prepared to bury their 24-year-old son, who was apparently targeted because of his sexual orientation.

Daniel Zamudio, a gay man, was attacked in a Santiago park on March 3 and died from his injuries Tuesday.

The Zamudio house was decorated with flowers and white balloons in observance of the young man's death, which caused outrage throughout the country.

Hundreds of neighbors and others lined the streets as cars from the Zamudio home made its way to a cemetery for his funeral.

People crowded around cars in the funeral procession at some points, waving flags or photographs of the young man.

Others held up signs in memory of Zamudio or calling for the quick passage of a hate crimes law in the country.

Only close family was allowed inside the cemetery, CNN Chile reported. Meanwhile, others gathered at a stage where musicians played and speakers celebrated Zamudio's life and called for change.

Zamudio's attackers reportedly beat him for an hour, burned him with cigarettes and carved Nazi symbols on his body.

Four men thought to belong to a neo-Nazi group have been arrested. They were identified as Raul Lopez Fuentes, 25, Patricio Ahumada Garay, 25, Alejandro Angulo Tapia, 26, and Fabian Mora Mora, 19.

After Zamudio died, authorities raised the charges against the men to aggravated murder.

"As a government, we did this in the name of millions of Chileans who, after the murder of Daniel Zamudio, feel that Chile has to change," regional Gov. Cecilia Perez said.

On Friday, the United Nations added its call for passage of an anti-discrimination law.

"We deplore the violent criminal act that took the life of this young man and urge the Chilean Congress to pass a law against discrimination, including on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, in full compliance with relevant international human rights standards," said Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the U.N. high commissioner for human rights.

"The case should be seen in the wider context of hate-motivated violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons around the world," he added.

A U.N. report on the issue released last month found evidence of "startling high levels" of homophobic violence around the world, he said.

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera addressed the incident this week.

"We want to reiterate today that we have made a commitment. We are not going to tolerate any kind of discrimination against Chilean citizens based on their socioeconomic status, their religion or sexual orientation," he said.

The incident has put the issue of hate crimes legislation back on the legislative agenda.

A hate crimes bill was introduced seven years ago but has languished as conservative groups blocked its passage.

"At every turn, this law has been cut. At every turn, there have been efforts to trim it. There was even resistance to having discrimination based on sexual orientation included in the (bill). This is something Chile can no longer permit. And now, after the death of Daniel, which has brought this moment of sensibility, it is time to pass" the bill, said Carolina Toha, president of the liberal Party for Democracy.

Chileans are calling for action, said Rolando Jimenez, president of Movilh, a gay rights organization.

"What we are asking for is to change the conditions of life, improve the quality of life, recognition of the right to dignity and equality for all gay, lesbian and transgendered Chileans," he said.

The family has thanked the public for the outpouring of support.

"We are surprised and greatly appreciative of all the support we have received from social media, Daniel's classmates, his friends, people from the north, from the south, from the world," said Zamudio's brother, Diego Zamudio.

CNN's Rafael Romo and CNN Chile contributed to this report.

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