Trans Harvard grad on HONEYMOON dies of 'failure of bodily functions' in notorious Bali prison after cannabis arrest

Trans Harvard grad on HONEYMOON dies of 'failure of bodily functions' in notorious Bali prison after cannabis arrest
Rodrigo Ventosilla (L) with newlywed husband Sebastian Marallano (@luzmalaluz/Instagram)

BALI, INDONESIA: Rodrigo Ventosilla, 32, an activist from Peru and a graduate student at Harvard Kennedy School, died in police custody at a hospital on August 11 just five days after being arrested with his spouse, Sebastian Marallano, at I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar for allegedly carrying cannabis-derived products. As per the authorities, Ventosilla had a "failure of bodily functions," while the families of the duo, who were in Bali for honeymoon, have alleged that the couple was "victims of police violence" and the arrest was an act of racial discrimination and transphobia.

According to statements by police spokesman Stefanus Satake Bayu Setianto to Reuters, Ventosilla had been under investigation for drug offenses after suspected cannabis-derived products were found in his luggage on August 6. Two days after the arrest, Ventosilla started complaining of stomach pains and vomiting, and was rushed to Bhayangkara Hospital where he died, as per NY Post. Setianto said, as quoted by The Harvard Crimson, “The cause of death is a complete failure of body function that causes impaired kidney function and impaired liver and nervous system function to the patient’s brain.”


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Ventosilla was a founding member of the Peruvian trans rights organization Diversidades Trans Masculinas and was pursuing a master's degree in public administration, according to The Harvard Crimson. The families of Ventosilla and Marallano released a statement on August 30, saying, "We do not know the real causes of his death because the Indonesian authorities have not allowed for an independent autopsy." They said the authorities were not transparent about his condition while stating, "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 families further wrote that Ventosilla was arrested for possessing prescription drugs which he used as mental health medication. "Ventocilla and Marallano, his spouse, were deprived of vital human rights such as health, freedom, access to legal defense,” the statement read.

Marallano was also hospitalized days after being detained by police, the families said, adding that, "Police in Bali demanded exorbitant sums of money ranging up to $200,000 to free Ventosilla and Marallano." They also pointed out Peruvian consular services in Indonesia, who “did not show up to provide support" until after they received Ventosilla's death news. "The consulate’s actions were late, negligent and hindered the family’s request for help when Rodrigo [Ventosilla] was still alive," the statement described while accusing authorities of "police violence ... racial discrimination and transphobia".

As reported by Reuters, Peru’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a Wednesday statement, August 31, that Indonesian authorities had been asked to strictly follow “the human rights of its two nationals” but added that the original detention “does not correspond with acts of racial discrimination or transphobic”.

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