September 30, 2020 at 10:44 am PDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Journalist who condemned anti-LGBTQ violence, corruption in Honduras murdered
Luis Almendares (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

COMAYAGUA, Honduras – A journalist in Honduras who publicly condemned anti-LGBTQ violence has been killed.

CNN en Español reported two men on a motorbike shot Luis Almendares three times in Comayagua, a city that is less than two hours northwest of Tegucigalpa, the Central American country’s capital. on Sunday. Almendares died at a Tegucigalpa hospital the following day.

Honduran media reports indicate the two men shot Almendares while he was doing a Facebook Live video.

Criterio, an online Honduran newspaper, reported Almendares “was very known in the municipality of Comayagua for denouncing business owners and the area’s politicians, in particular on issues of corruption and drug trafficking.”

One of Almendares’ colleagues told CNN en Español that he had been receiving death threats because of his work. Sources in Honduras with whom the Los Angeles Blade spoke on Tuesday also confirmed Almendares publicly condemned violence against LGBTQ Hondurans.

One source said Almendares condemned an attack against a transgender woman that took place in Comayagua on Sept. 6. Almendares six days later in a Facebook post he titled “To be Gay in a Country of Machos” wrote about a gay man who was attacked inside a Comayagua bar with a machete.

The post notes police officers and a judge refused to help the man after the attack. Almendares urged his Facebook friends to help the man pay the $89.65 (2,200 Honduran lempiras) he owed to the clinic that treated him.

It is not immediately clear if Almendares’ public condemnations of violence against LGBTQ Hondurans specifically contributed to his death. Reporters Without Borders and other groups note Honduras remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists.

CNN en Español reported 86 journalists have been killed in Honduras since 2001, and 90 percent of these murders have not been prosecuted.

Santi Carvajal, a trans woman who hosted a program on a television station in Puerto Cortés, a city on Honduras’ Caribbean coast, was shot to death in July 2019.

Violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity remains commonplace in Honduras, which has one of the world’s highest per capita murder rates. Activists say President Juan Orlando Hernández’s government has either done little to address the problem or made it worse.

“We condemn the crime that took the life of journalist Luis Almendares,” reads a statement that María Andrea Matamoros Castillo, a government spokesperson, shared on her Twitter page on Monday. “The Honduras National Police’s Special Unit immediately launched an investigation.”

“Those responsible will feel the full weight of the law,” adds the statement that notes authorities have leads in Almendares’ murder. “Our solidarity with the family.”

Reporters Without Borders is among the groups that condemned Almendares’ murder.

“The Honduran authorities must lose no time in identifying the perpetrators and instigators of this execution-style murder, and should prioritize the hypothesis that it was linked to the victim’s reporting,” said Emmanuel Colombié, the head of Reporters Without Borders’ Latin America bureau, in a statement.

“The endless spiral of violence against the Honduran press has to be brought to an end,” added Colombié. “How many journalists need to be murdered before the authorities react, by reinforcing their mechanism for protecting journalists and by establishing a lasting plan for combatting impunity for these crimes?”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Los Angeles Blade. Follow Michael

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