San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - WORLD -

Coun­try has seen nearly 1,600 peo­ple die in hate-mo­ti­vated at­tacks in 4½ years.

RIO DE JANEIRO — The as­sailant struck as Gabriel Figueira Lima, 21, stood on a street two weeks ago in a city in the Ama­zon, plung­ing a knife into his neck and speed­ing off on the back of a mo­tor­cy­cle, leav­ing him to die.

A few days ear­lier, in the coastal state of Bahia, two beloved teach­ers, Edi­valdo Silva de Oliveira and Jeo­van Ban­deira, were killed as well, their charred re­mains found in the trunk of a burn­ing car.

Late last month, it was Welling­ton Júlio de Cas­tro Men­donça, a shy, 24-year-old re­tail clerk, who was blud­geoned and stoned to death near a high­way in a city north­west of Rio.

In a na­tion seem­ingly in­ured to crime, the bru­tal killings stood out: The vic­tims were not robbed, the po­lice have yet to iden­tify any sus­pects, and all of the dead were either gay or trans­gen­der.

While Amer­i­cans have fiercely de­bated how to re­spond to the mas­sacre last month at a gay night­club in Or­lando, Fla., Brazil­ians have been con­fronting their own epi­demic of anti­gay vi­o­lence — one that, by some counts, has earned Brazil the ig­no­min­ious rank­ing of the world’s dead­li­est place for les­bians, gays, bi­sex­u­als and trans­gen­der peo­ple.

Nearly 1,600 peo­ple have died in hate-mo­ti­vated at­tacks in the past 41⁄2 years, ac­cord­ing to Grupo Gay da Bahia, which tracks the deaths through news ar­ti­cles. By its tally, a gay or trans­gen­der per­son is killed al­most ev­ery day in this na­tion of 200 mil­lion.

“And these num­bers rep­re­sent only the tip of the ice­berg of vi­o­lence and blood­shed,” said Eduardo Michels, the group’s data man­ager, adding that the Brazil­ian po­lice of­ten omit anti­gay an­i­mus when com­pil­ing homi­cide re­ports.

An­to­nio Kvalo, 34, a Web de­signer, cre­ated tem­lo­, where Brazil­ians can log in­stances of anti­gay vi­o­lence. He said he had been mo­ti­vated in part by his own ex­pe­ri­ence, in 2008, when two men tack­led him on a street in Rio and kicked him dozens of times. When the po­lice ar­rived, “they made me feel like a crim­i­nal,” Kvalo said.

Such in­ci­dents can be hard to square with Brazil’s sto­ried im­age as a tol­er­ant, open so­ci­ety — a na­tion that seem­ingly nur­tures free­wheel­ing ex­pres­sions of sex­u­al­ity dur­ing Car­ni­val and holds the world’s big­gest gay pride pa­rade in the city of São Paulo.

Brazil’s near-mythic rep­u­ta­tion for tol­er­ance is not with­out jus­ti­fi­ca­tion. In the nearly three decades since democ­racy re­placed mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ship, the Brazil­ian gov­ern­ment has in­tro­duced nu­mer­ous laws and poli­cies aimed at im­prov­ing the lives of sex­ual mi­nori­ties. In 1996, it was among the first to of­fer free an­tiretro­vi­ral drugs to peo­ple with HIV. In 2003, Brazil be­came the first coun­try in Latin Amer­ica to rec­og­nize same-sex unions for im­mi­gra­tion pur­poses, and it was among the ear­li­est to al­low gay cou­ples to adopt chil­dren.

In 2013, the Brazil­ian ju­di­ciary ef­fec­tively le­gal­ized same-sex mar­riage.

Some ex­perts sug­gest that lib­eral gov­ern­ment poli­cies may have got­ten too far ahead of tra­di­tional so­cial mores. The anti­gay vi­o­lence, they con­tend, can be traced to Brazil’s cul­ture of machismo and a brand of evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tian­ity, ex­ported from the United States, that is out­spo­ken in its op­po­si­tion to ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity.

Lalo De Almeida / New York Times

An­to­nio Kvalo built a web­site for Brazil­ians to re­port in­ci­dents of anti­gay vi­o­lence af­ter be­ing beaten him­self, in Rio de Janeiro. Kvalo re­calls be­ing fur­ther abused by po­lice af­ter his as­sault.

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