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President of Tonga LGBTQ rights group murdered

Polikalepo Kefu was killed near their home on May 1

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LAPAHA, Tonga — The president of an LGBTQ rights group in Tonga was murdered on May 1. Media reports indicate Tonga Leitis Association President Polikalepo Kefu was killed near their home in Lapaha, a village on the island of Tongatapu on which the Tongan capital of Nuku’alofa is located.

Deputy Tonga Police Commissioner Tevita Vailea on Monday in a statement said authorities have charged a 27-year-old man with murder.

“This is a tragic event, and our thoughts are with Mr. Kefu’s family, friends and wider community,” said Vailea.

The Tonga Leitis Association in a statement described Kefu as “a selfless humanitarian and a tireless advocate for the rights of those with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions.” The group also announced Cruella Tuinukuafe has been named interim president.

“In these dark and troubling times, we are reminded of Poli’s light and positive energy, and we encouraged knowing that this is when we are most needed to continue our work,” said the Tonga Leitis Association.

Amini Fonua, an openly gay Olympic swimmer from Tonga, also mourned Kefu.

“Hearing the news of Poli Kefu’s passing has left us all shocked and deeply saddened,” Fonua told the Blade on Tuesday in an email. “Poli was a beacon of light, whose smile and sense of humor touched so many lives. Poli’s work for equality and human rights is well documented through all his volunteer work and presidency at the Leitis Association. Poli was a fighter for all the voiceless LGBTQ people, not just in Tonga, but all throughout the Pacific.”

ILGA Oceania in a statement noted Kefu in February helped coordinate a virtual symposium it organized in Fiji.

“Poli was a humble gentle inspiring leader who displayed a proactive interaction with ILGA Oceania on its various projects and conferences,” said ILGA Oceania.

“In the spirit of activism and friendship, we will miss you Poli for your pro-active, strong activism, your commitment and dedication to LGBTI issues and movement throughout the kingdom of Tonga, the Pacific Islands and Oceania,” added the statement.

The Tonga Leitis Association was founded in 1992.

The organization specifically advocates on behalf of transgender and gender-variant Tongans and other members of the country’s LGBTQ community. The Tonga Leitis Association also provides health care and other services to people with HIV/AIDS.

Tonga is among the countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized. Fonua during a 2017 interview with the Blade said anti-LGBTQ discrimination, homophobia and transphobia remain commonplace in his homeland.

“It is truly a devastating day when we learn that people in the Pacific are still being murdered for simply living in their truth,” said Fonua on Tuesday. “Poli’s death won’t be in vain, and we shall continue the fight for equality and equal protection under the law.”

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Blinken says Biden raised Russia’s LGBTQ rights record with Putin

Geneva summit between two presidents took place on June 16

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken (YouTube screenshot)

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday said President Biden raised the Kremlin’s LGBTQ rights record with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their recent summit.

“The president pushed human rights — including LGBTQI rights — with President Putin,” Blinken told Washington Post columnist, “PBS NewsHour” contributor and host of MSNBC’s “The Sunday Show” Jonathan Capehart during a virtual Pride month discussion the Atlantic Council hosted.

Biden met with Putin on June 16 in Geneva. Blinken was among those who participated in the summit.

The White House did not say whether Biden specifically raised Russia’s LGBTQ rights record with Putin. Biden told reporters after the summit that he stressed to Putin “that no president of the United States could keep faith with the American people if they did not speak out to defend our democratic values, to stand up for the universal rights and fundamental freedoms that all men and women have, in our view.”

“What he told President Putin is that as an American president — where for all of our challenges, many of which are manifest in recent months and recent years — this is something that is basically stamped in to our DNA and he would be abdicating his responsibility as president, as an American president, not to raise these issues,” Blinken told Capehart.

Capehart specifically asked Blinken about the case of two Chechen brothers who were arrested in Russia in February and returned to their homeland, even though they had fled Chechnya’s anti-LGBTQ crackdown.

“We didn’t get into specific cases in that meeting, but he made very clear to President Putin that this is fundamentally who we and who he is and what we’ll do and will continue to do going forward,” said Blinken.

Blinken also did not say how Putin specifically responded to Biden’s decision to raise his country’s LGBTQ rights record with him. Blinken, however, did say “there was at least an acknowledgment” the U.S. will raise human rights in such meetings.

“This is what an American president should do,” said Blinken. “This is who we are and this is what we represent to the world.”

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Las iglesias en Cuba están más preocupadas por la educación sexual que por el Código de las Familias

Los adventistas publicaron una carta dirigida al presidente

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Una iglesia de la Iglesia Adventista del Séptimo Día en Santa Clara, Cuba. (Foto de Michael K. Lavers por el Washington Blade)

Tremenda Nota es el medio socio del Los Angeles Blade. Esta nota salió en su sitio web el 16 de junio.

CÁRDENAS, Cuba — Una declaración oficial de la Iglesia Adventista del Séptimo Día confirma que la preocupación de algunas iglesias cristianas contrarias a los derechos LGBTI+, está más motivada por el programa de educación sexual integral aprobado por el Ministerio de Educación (Mined) que por el Código de las Familias.

Los adventistas, en una carta pública dirigida al presidente cubano Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, manifestaron estar “preocupadas” por la Resolución No. 16/2021, aprobada por el Mined el pasado 26 de febrero con el propósito de establecer un programa educativo con enfoque de género que promueve la inclusión de personas LGBTI+, entre otros temas.

La declaración adventista, aunque dice estar en “desacuerdo” con “los ajustes que se quieren hacer al Código de Familia”, solicitó puntualmente al gobierno “no exponer a nuestros niños, niñas y adolescentes a la ideología de género en las escuelas”.

“Finalmente, en caso de implementarse el programa de ideología de género en nuestras escuelas que este sea opcional, ya que no existen escuelas cristianas”, insistieron los adventistas.

La resolución aprobada por el Mined declara: “El respeto a la diversidad sexual, como fundamento ético y de protección de los derechos de las personas y de rechazo a prácticas y comportamientos homofóbicos, transfóbicos e inhumanos”.

La solicitud principal de la declaración adventista coincide con lo manifestado por otras denominaciones cristianas en sus recientes posiciones públicas. La Convención Bautista de Cuba Occidental, por ejemplo, también recomendó que la educación sexual sea ofrecida como una opción no obligatoria, bajo supervisión del Centro Nacional de Educación Sexual (Cenesex).

“Sería doloroso que muchos ciudadanos dignos se vean en la disyuntiva de no llevar a sus hijos a la escuela (asumiendo las consecuencias de ese acto de desobediencia civil) o entregarlos mansamente al bombardeo sectario de una ideología que rechazamos”, dijeron los bautistas.

La Liga Evangélica de Cuba, en su declaración publicada este 10 de junio, enfatizó en que se garantice la libertad religiosa y expresó que personas LGBTI+ “tienen derecho a luchas por sus demandas y pedir igualdad ante la ley”.

Los adventistas, en la misma línea que los metodistas, quienes solicitaron al gobierno una Ley de Cultos que refuerce la libertad religiosa, dijeron en su carta que si las autoridades finalmente legislan a favor de la igualdad LGBTI+, también proteja a quienes defienden “el punto de vista contrario a la ideología de género”, para evitar que sean acusados de homofobia “por proclamar y vivir los principios bíblicos”.

Los metodistas advirtieron sobre el peligro de “criminalizar nuestra defensa del diseño original de la familia, el matrimonio y la identidad humana”.

Las últimas declaraciones de las iglesias cristianas parecen dar como un hecho inevitable que el Código de las Familias adoptará el matrimonio LGBTI+ y se han enfocado en defender el derecho de los cristianos a profesar la fe que deseen sin ser molestados y la facultad de los padres para elegir la educación de los hijos menores de edad.

La resolución del Mined que han criticado estas iglesias, ya está en vigor. El Código de las Familias, la ley que debe resolver si el matrimonio será un derecho de las parejas LGBTI+, será presentado al parlamento en julio próximo. Después de ser aprobado por la Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular, será sometido a referendo.

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US condemns murder of prominent transgender activist in Guatemala

Andrea González murdered days after vice president visited country

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Andrea González (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

GUATEMALA CITY — The U.S. has condemned the murder of a prominent transgender activist in Guatemala.

Reports indicate Andrea González, executive director of Organización Trans Reinas de la Noche, a trans advocacy group, was shot to death in broad daylight on June 11 near her home in Guatemala City. Las Reinas de la Noche in a statement posted to its Twitter page mourned González.

“Reinas de la Noche is in mourning over the irreparable loss of Andrea González, a leader and activist for the human rights of trans people,” said Reinas de la Noche. “Her legacy will endure in each one of us, and her light will never be extinguished.”

The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala noted González participated in the State Department’s International Visitors Leadership Program that invites human rights activists, journalists and civil society members to the U.S. to meet with their counterparts and American officials.

Andrea González in D.C. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

González also worked with the U.S. Agency for International Development.

“The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala mourns the death of Andrea González,” said the embassy in a statement.

USAID Administrator Samantha Power and U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala William Popp on Wednesday visited Reina de las Noche’s headquarters to express their condolences over González’s murder.

Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Julie Chung in a statement noted González was killed days after Cecy Ixpata, who was also affiliated with Reinas de la Noche, was killed in Salamá, the capital of Guatemala’s Baja Verapaz department.

Salamá is roughly three hours northeast of Guatemala City.

“We condemn the outrageous murders of two transgender women in Guatemala,” said Chung. “We believe all such violence must be investigated and the perpetrators held accountable.” 

Chung added the murders are “particularly saddening as we celebrate the contributions of LGBTQI+ activists around the world during Pride month.”

Violence and discrimination based on gender identity remains widespread in Guatemala.

Two activists who work with LGBTQ Guatemalans and Guatemalans with HIV/AIDS are among the 18 members of Guatemala civil society who participated in a roundtable with Vice President Kamala Harris in Guatemala City on June 7. 

Harris has previously noted that violence based on gender identity is one of the “root causes” of migration from Guatemala and other Central American countries. State Department spokesperson Ned Price last month noted to the Blade during an interview ahead of the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia that protecting LGBTQ migrants and asylum seekers is one of the Biden administration’s global LGBTQ rights priorities.  

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