Saturday, December 20, 2008

Body of Ecuadorean killed in New York returns home


CUENCA, Ecuador (AP) — The body of an Ecuadorean immigrant beaten to death in New York arrived home for burial late Friday, following the third high-profile killing of a Latino immigrant in the U.S. this year.

Clutching candles, friends and family lined the roadway as the coffin of Jose Sucuzhanay, a 31-year-old real estate broker, wound its way from the airport to a funeral home in this highlands city near his rural hometown.

"Welcome ... no one will hurt you here," read a placard friends carried on the walk. "Enough already. No more migrant deaths."

Sucuzhanay was attacked by a group of men who kicked and beat him with an aluminum baseball bat, shouting anti-Latino and anti-gay slurs as he walked arm in arm with his brother near his Brooklyn home on Dec. 7.

New York City police are still searching for three suspects, and the NYPD's Hate Crime Task Force is investigating the incident.

"We're not only here to show our support, but to express our pain, our repudiation of these acts of xenophobia, these actions that have embarrassed us as human beings and that we all must fight," Ecuadorean Migration Minister Lorena Escudero said earlier Friday as she joined Sucuzhanay's mother to receive the body in the capital, Quito.

U.S. lawmakers and Hispanic groups have denounced Sucuzhanay's death, saying recent slayings of Latino immigrants lend new urgency to calls to pass a new hate crimes law and give local officials resources to investigate.

Sucuzhanay's killing follows the deaths of Luis Ramirez, 25, a Mexican immigrant who was beaten to death July 14 in eastern Pennsylvania; and Marcelo Lucero, 37, an Ecuadorean immigrant who was fatally stabbed Nov. 8 by a group of teenagers on Long Island, New York.

Prosecutors said seven teenagers charged in Lucero's assault had set out to attack a Hispanic person, while three teenagers linked to Ramirez's death also face charges of ethnic intimidation.

There were 830 Hispanic victims of hate crimes last year in the United States, up from 819 in 2006 and 595 in 2003, according to FBI statistics.

Sucuzhanay's funeral will be held Saturday in Cuenca, the capital of Ecuador's Azuay province, from which thousands of immigrants have left for the U.S. and Spain.

Lucero, also from the region, was buried outside Cuenca earlier this year.

On Friday, the streets were crowded with Sucuzhanay's friends and family, including his two children, Brian, 10, and Johanna, 4, who were raised by their paternal grandfather after their parents went to the U.S. in search of work.

"We only know that they attacked him. Why would they do that? We don't know," one of Sucuzhanay's uncles, Jose Reiban, told The Associated Press.

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