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Prominent trans activist murdered in Honduras

Thalía Rodríguez killed outside her Tegucigalpa home on Monday

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Thalía Rodríguez at her home. (Photo courtesy of Reportar sin Miedo)

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — A prominent transgender activist in Honduras was killed on Monday.

Reportar sin Miedo, the Washington Blade’s media partner in Honduras, reported Thalía Rodríguez was shot in the head outside her home in Tegucigalpa, the country’s capital.

Rodríguez, 58, led Asociación Cozumel Trans, a Honduran trans rights group.

Reportar sin Miedo reported Rodríguez ran her own business for nearly three decades until debts, poor sales and the pandemic forced her to close it about a year ago. Reportar sin Miedo interviewed Rodríguez for a feature story on trans Hondurans’ experiences in the country that it published last month.

“Thalía for many years had been fighting to ensure the trans community in Honduras would have rights,” JLo Córdova of Muñecas de Arcoíris, a Honduran trans rights group, told Reportar sin Miedo. “She was a warrior because she always fought for our rights. We condemn and repudiate her murder.” Ferrera, the co-founder of Asociación Cozumel Trans who the Blade interviewed in Tegucigalpa in 2017, also condemned Rodríguez’s murder.

 
 
 
 
 
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The U.S. Embassy in Honduras has also condemned Rodríguez’s murder.

“We mourn the murder of trans activist and leader Thalía Rodríguez,” tweeted the embassy on Tuesday. “We remain committed to ending violence, discrimination, criminalization and stigma against LGBTQI+ people. We call for an immediate and transparent investigation.”

Anti-trans violence is commonplace in Honduras, a country in Central America’s Northern Triangle that borders Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua.

Reportar sin Miedo reports Rodríguez is the 400th trans person to be reported killed in Honduras since 2009.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights last year found Honduras responsible for the murder of Vicky Hernández, a trans woman who was killed hours after the 2009 coup that ousted then-President Manuel Zelaya. President-elect Xiomara Castro, who is Zelaya’s wife, is scheduled to take office on Jan. 27.

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Central America

Panama urged to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples

Country’s Supreme Court earlier this year ruled against marriage equality

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PANAMA CITY — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has urged Panama to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.

The Panamanian Supreme Court in a March 1 press release noted six judges in February upheld the country’s prohibition of marriage for same-sex couples. The commission in a March 24 press release said the decision “has a negative impact on the principles of equality and non-discrimination by excluding the possibility of same-sex marriages and the recognition of those celebrated abroad.”

Enrique Jelenszky, a Panamanian citizen who married his husband, John Winstanley, in the U.K., in 2016 filed a lawsuit that sought recognition of their marriage. Álvaro Levy and his husband, Ken Gilberg, who is from the U.S., brought a second marriage equality lawsuit the same year.

Supreme Court Justice Luis Ramón Fábrega in 2017 heard arguments in the two cases that have been combined into one. Human Rights Watch notes three additional same-sex couples have brought marriage equality cases in Panama. 

Neighboring Costa Rica and Colombia are among the jurisdictions in Latin America that have extended marriage rights to same-sex couples.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights in 2018 published a landmark ruling that recognizes same-sex marriage and Transgender rights in the Western Hemisphere. Then-Panamanian Vice President Isabel de Saint Malo said her government would comply with the decision.

Former first lady Lorena Castillo is among those who have publicly backed marriage equality. Prominent religious leaders and officials in the current government remain vehemently opposed.

Iván Chanis Barahona, president of Fundación Iguales, a Panamanian advocacy group, this week told the Washington Blade the commission’s statement “was a very straightforward, categoric and clear reminder that Panama, as a member of the American Convention of Human Rights and as a member of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, is obliged to secure marriage as the OC2417 (ruling) clearly established.”

“It is disappointing that Panama is not on that track, but it urged Panama to correct and amend this recent decision of the Supreme Court through all possible means, respecting our democratic values,” said Chanis.

“For me and for the work of Fundación Iguales and the work of civil society in Panama it’s very special support from our regional system of human rights to let us know that we are not alone and that we are on the right path of making Panama accountable as a sovereign state, part of the international community, to fulfill their human rights commitments,” he added. “This is a clear precedent that if Panama does not secure marriage and protections of LGBT people and couples in the coming year or years, Panama will lose at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights because the mandate is clear.”

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Central America

Panamanian Supreme Court rules against marriage equality

Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling applies to Central American country

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Panamanian Supreme Court (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

PANAMA CITY — The Panamanian Supreme Court has upheld the country’s prohibition of marriage for same-sex couples. 

press release the Supreme Court issued on Wednesday notes six judges on Feb. 16 ruled the phrase “between a man and a woman” in Article 26 of Panama’s family code is not unconstitutional. The ruling also upholds a provision of a 2015 law that states “marriage between individuals of the same sex is prohibited.”

The press release notes the court concluded “the norms that provide that marriage should be voluntarily arranged between a man and a woman (who) are legally able to join to make and share a life together, and those that concomitantly prohibit people of the same sex from each other (Article 34, Number 1 of the family code and Article 35 of the Pan-American Code of Private International Law) are objectively and reasonably justified in the general interest of giving precedence to those unions with the potential of establishing families, giving continuity to the human race and, therefore, to society.”

“The ruling indicates that there is a reality, and that is, until now, the right to marriage equality is no more than an aspiration that, although legitimate for the groups involved, does not fall into a the category of a human right or a fundamental right, being that it lacks conventional and constitutional recognition,” notes the press release.

The court has yet to release the ruling itself.

Enrique Jelenszky, a Panamanian citizen who married his husband, John Winstanley, in the U.K., in 2016 filed a lawsuit that sought recognition of their marriage. Álvaro Levy and his husband, Ken Gilberg, who is from the U.S., brought a second marriage equality lawsuit the same year.

Supreme Court Justice Luis Ramón Fábrega in 2017 heard arguments in the two cases that have been combined into one. Human Rights Watch notes three additional same-sex couples have brought marriage equality cases in Panama. 

Neighboring Costa Rica and Colombia are among the jurisdictions in Latin America that have extended marriage rights to same-sex couples.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights in 2018 published a landmark ruling that recognizes same-sex marriage and transgender rights in the Western Hemisphere. Then-Panamanian Vice President Isabel de Saint Malo said her government would comply with the decision.

Former first lady Lorena Castillo is among those who have publicly backed marriage equality. Prominent religious leaders and officials in the current government remain vehemently opposed.

“This is clearly a ruling that has the intention to not only deny our human rights, but it is an activist-type of ruling if you think about it,” Iván Chanis Barahona, president of Fundación Iguales, a Panamanian advocacy group, told the Washington Blade on Wednesday during a WhatsApp interview.

Chanis said it is too soon to discuss a potential post-ruling strategy, but he did note Panama continues to violate the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling because same-sex couples cannot legally marry in the country.

“Technically Panama violated international law, violated international human rights law, violated the Inter-American system ruling,” said Chanis.

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Central America

Trans woman deported from U.S. murdered in Honduras

Melissa Núñez had lived in Miami

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Melissa Núñez (Foto cortesía de Reportar sin Miedo)

MOROCELÍ, Honduras — A Transgender woman who the U.S. deported to Honduras earlier this year has been murdered.

Reportar sin Miedo, the Washington Blade’s media partner in Honduras, reported a group of “hooded subjects” shot Melissa Núñez in Morocelí, a municipality in El Paraíso department in eastern Honduras, on Tuesday night.

Initial reports indicate Núñez, 42, died from a gunshot wound to the head.

Indyra Mendoza, general coordinator of Cattrachas, a lesbian feminist network based in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa, on Thursday confirmed to the Blade that Núñez asked for asylum in the U.S.

Mendoza said she did not know on what grounds Núñez asked for asylum, but Reportar sin Miedo reported she had lived in Miami and had more than 20,000 followers on TikTok. Núñez, according to Reportar sin Miedo, became “a strong activist” for LGBTQ+ and intersex rights while in the U.S.

Mendoza told the Blade that Núñez in December 2021 returned to Honduras after she traveled through Mexico and Guatemala. Núñez tried to return to the U.S., but Mendoza said American authorities deported her back to Honduras in July.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights last June issued a landmark ruling that found Honduras responsible for the murder of Vicky Hernández, a Trans sex worker with HIV who died in police custody hours after the 2009 coup that ousted then-President Manuel Zelaya from power.

Zelaya’s wife, President Xiomara Castro, is among the Honduran officials who participated in a ceremony earlier this year during which the government publicly acknowledged it was responsible for Hernández’s murder. The admission the government reached with her family.

Violence and discrimination based on gender identity and expression nevertheless remains commonplace in Honduras. Vice President Kamala Harris is among the U.S. officials who have acknowledged anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-intersex violence are among the factors that prompt Hondurans and people from neighboring El Salvador and Honduras to leave their countries.

Camila Díaz Córdova, a Trans woman from El Salvador who the U.S. deported, was killed in San Salvador, the Salvadoran capital, in January 2019. A Salvadoran court convicted three police officers of Díaz’s murder and sentenced them to 20 years in prison.

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Central America

Honduras government admits responsibility for Trans woman’s murder

Vicky Hernández killed in San Pedro Sula shortly after 2009 coup

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Vicky Hernández (Photo courtesy of Cattrachas)

SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras — The government of Honduras on Monday publicly acknowledged it is responsible for the 2009 murder of a Transgender activist.

Vicky Hernández was a Trans activist and sex worker with HIV who worked with Colectivo Unidad Color Rosa, an advocacy group that is based in San Pedro Sula, the country’s second largest city.

Hernández’s body was found in a San Pedro Sula street on June 29, 2009, hours after the coup that ousted then-President Manuel Zelaya from power. Hernández and two other Trans women the night before ran away from police officers who tried to arrest them because they were violating a curfew.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights last June issued a landmark ruling that found Honduras responsible for Hernández’s murder. The admission was part of the settlement.

Solicitor General Manuel Antonio Díaz Galeas and Foreign Minister Eduardo Enrique Reina García were among those who attended Monday’s ceremony that took place in front of Colectivo Unidad Color Rosa’s offices. President Xiomara Castro, who took office in January, participated virtually.

Kerry Kennedy, president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, which represented Hernández’s family alongside Cattrachas, a lesbian feminist human rights group that is based in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa, also attended alongside Hernández’s mother, Rosa Hernández.

“We should love our children for who they are because they come from the womb,” said Rosa Hernández. “No one has a right to take a life.”

Kennedy noted the Honduran government “has taken the first steps by publicly acknowledging and taking responsibility and apologizing for murdering Vicky.”

Violence and discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation remains pervasive in Honduras.

Thalía Rodríguez, a prominent Trans activist, was killed outside her Tegucigalpa home on Jan. 11. Cattrachas notes she and Hernández are two of the more than 400 LGBTQ+ people who have been killed in the Central American country since 2009.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights ordered Honduras to pay reparations to Hernández’s family and enact laws that protect LGBTQ+ people from violence and discrimination. Kennedy in her statement noted Castro has pledged “to making these necessary reforms.”

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Central America

LGBTQ+ activist in El Salvador receives death threats

Erick Iván Ortiz lost Legislative Assembly race in 2021

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Erick Iván Ortiz (Photo courtesy of Erick Iván Ortiz)

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — An LGBTQ+ rights activist in El Salvador who once ran for a seat in the country’s Legislative Assembly has received death threats.

Erick Iván Ortiz — a member of the Nuestro Partido party who is the director of communications for the Salvadoran Federation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Persons — spoke about the threats during an April 20 press conference.

Ortiz said he received two phone calls on April 13.

The person who Ortiz said threatened him asked in the second phone call where “should we leave the body” and whether “we should bury it or dump it in the river.” The Salvadoran Federation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Persons and the Nuestro Partido’s leadership have both condemned the threats.

Ortiz would have been the first openly gay person elected to the Legislative Assembly if he had won his race last year. Ortiz in January joined the Global Equality Caucus, a network of elected officials around the world who fight for LGBTQ+ rights.

Editor’s note: The Los Angeles Blade on Monday published a Spanish version of this article.

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Central America

Guatemala lawmakers scrap same-sex marriage ban bill

Country’s president said measure violated international treaties

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Plaza de la Constitución in Guatemala City. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

GUATEMALA CITY — Lawmakers in Guatemala on Tuesday tabled a bill that would have formally banned marriage for same-sex couples and defined a family as a man and a woman who are raising children together.

Agencia Presentes, a website that covers LGBTQ+-specific news throughout Latin America, noted members of the Guatemalan Congress voted 119-19 to table the “Law for the Protection of Life and the Family” bill. Agencia Presentes, which also reported 26 lawmakers abstained from the vote, posted a video that shows LGBTQ+ activists celebrating outside the Guatemalan Congress.

Lawmakers in the Central American country on March 8 approved the bill under which a woman who has an abortion would have faced up to 10 years in prison.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights in 2018 issued a landmark ruling that recognizes same-sex marriage and transgender rights in the Western Hemisphere. Guatemala is among the countries in which the decision is legally binding.

President Alejandro Giammattei sent the bill back to Congress for further review because he said it would have violated international treaties.

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Central America

Guatemala lawmakers pass bill to ban marriage equality

Measure also defines family as a man and woman with children

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Plaza de la Constitución in Guatemala City. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

GUATEMALA CITY — Lawmakers in Guatemala on Tuesday approved a bill that would formally ban same-sex marriage and define a family as a man and a woman who are raising children together.

The Guatemalan Congress by a 101-8 vote margin approved the “Law for the Protection of Life and the Family” under which a woman who has an abortion would face up to 10 years in prison. Media reports indicate 51 lawmakers did not attend the vote, which took place on International Women’s Day.

Visibles, a Guatemala City-based LGBTQ+ rights group, described the bill as “a law that promotes hate, violence, disqualification and dehumanization of those who dare to demand a more free and just world.”

“It is a regressive law that criminalizes girls, women and the LGBTIQ community through the exercise of their rights and freedoms,” said Visibles in a tweet.

“I never see marriage equality in Guatemala,” former Visibles Executive Director Daniel Villatoro told the Washington Blade on Friday.

Villatoro is currently a human rights fellow at Columbia University and the coordinator of the International Women’s Media Foundation’s LGBTQI+ and Women’s Rights Reporting Initiative in Latin America. Villatoro noted the bill would also codify the government’s official position that sexual education in the country’s schools should not promote “any sexuality that is not heterosexuality.”

“It is something broader,” Villatoro told the Blade. “It is a very heavy pathologization. It is anti-LGBT.”

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights in 2018 issued a landmark ruling that recognizes same-sex marriage and transgender rights in the Western Hemisphere. Guatemala is among the countries in which the decision is legally binding.

Media reports indicate President Alejandro Giammattei has said he would veto the bill because it violates international treaties. Villatoro noted Giammattei plans to send the measure back to Congress for further review.

“The law from its inception is unconstitutional,” said Congressman Aldo Dávila, who is openly gay and living with HIV, on Thursday in a video he posted to social media.

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Central America

A dispatch from Honduras

U.S. seeking former president’s extradition on drug charges

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Tegucigalpa, Honduras, on Feb. 10, 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — I was once again on assignment for the Washington Blade in Honduras from Feb. 6-11. I interviewed Víctor Grajeda, the first openly gay man elected to the Honduran Congress, and met Indyra Mendoza, founder of Cattrachas, a lesbian human rights group, at her office in Tegucigalpa, the country’s capital and largest city. I visited Dunia Orellana and Amílcar Cárcamo of Reportar sin Miedo, the Blade’s media partner in Honduras. I also had more than my share of “granitas de café,” or “iced coffees,” while in the country.

Honduras is one of the most violent and corrupt countries in the Americas.

The situation on the ground last July when I was on assignment in San Pedro Sula, the country’s second largest city, and in the cities of Tela and La Ceiba on Honduras’ Caribbean coast, was tense.

The trip took place against the backdrop of growing concerns over what would happen if the results of the presidential election that was scheduled to take place less than five months later were disputed. A pandemic-related curfew that was in place also added to this sense of uneasiness.

The situation on the ground on this most recent trip to Honduras felt slightly different.

President Xiomara Castro, a member of the leftist Free Party whose husband, former President Manuel Zelaya was removed from office in a 2009 coup, took office on Jan. 27.

Castro defeated Nasry Asfura, a member of now former President Juan Orlando Hernández’s National Party who is Tegucigalpa’s former mayor, in the presidential election’s first round that took place last Nov. 28. Vice President Kamala Harris and U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power are among the foreign dignitaries who attended Castro’s inauguration that took place at Honduras’ national stadium in Tegucigalpa. Grajeda and our Reportar sin Miedo colleagues were also on hand to witness the moment when Honduras’ first female president took office.

“I was there for this historic moment,” said Erick Martínez, a long-time activist who ran for Congress in 2017, during an interview in San Pedro Sula on Feb. 8. “I was crying in this full stadium; crying with pride; with joy; with sadness for the people who were not there.”

Martínez specifically mentioned Walter Tróchez and Erick Martínez Ávila, two Honduran LGBTQ activists who were murdered in December 2009 and May 2012 respectively. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights in a landmark ruling it issued last June said the Honduran state was responsible for the murder of Vicky Hernández, a transgender activist who was killed in San Pedro Sula hours after the 2009 coup.

Vicky Hernández (Photo courtesy of Cattrachas)

Juan Orlando Hernández was president of Congress from January 2010 to June 2013. He became the country’s head of state in 2014.

The Supreme Electoral Tribunal declared Hernández the winner of the 2017 presidential election, despite widespread irregularities and criticism that his decision to run for a second term violated the Honduran constitution. The disputed election results sparked widespread protests across the country that left dozens of people dead.

Juan Orlando Hernández did not attend Castro’s inauguration.

I was driving to interview Grajeda in San Pedro Sula when I read a press release from Secretary of State Antony Blinken that announced the U.S. had sanctioned Juan Orlando Hernández for corruption. 

Honduran authorities on Feb. 15 arrested Juan Orlando Hernández at his Tegucigalpa home after the U.S. asked for his extradition on drug and weapons charges. Federal prosecutors allege Juan Orlando Hernández used drug trafficking to fund his political campaigns.

Juan Orlando Hernández’s brother, former Congressman Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernández, is serving a life sentence in the U.S. after a federal jury convicted him of trafficking tons of cocaine into the country. I was driving from San Pedro Sula to Tegucigalpa on Feb. 8 when I heard on the radio that a federal judge in New York had sentenced Geovanny Fuentes Ramírez, a drug trafficker who allegedly bribed Juan Orlando Hernández and other Honduran government officials, to life in prison.

Honduras was certainly a “narco state” when Juan Orlando Hernández was president.

Castro, for her part, has publicly supported marriage equality and backs legal recognition of trans Hondurans and what Grajeda described as “safe spaces” for LGBTQ people. 

Six gay men and a trans man have been reported killed in Honduras since Castro took office. Police continue to face criticism over the investigation into the Jan. 11 murder of Thalía Rodríguez, a prominent trans activist who was shot in front of her Tegucigalpa home. Jerlín, a trans man who I interviewed last July in La Ceiba, fled the country weeks before Castro took office and plans to ask for asylum in the U.S. 

None of the sources with whom I spoke in Honduras are naive to the many challenges that Castro and her government face. They are also waiting to see whether the new government in Tegucigalpa will have a tangible impact on the lives of LGBTQ Hondurans who continue to face rampant violence and discrimination. 

We shall see.   

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Central America

Trans man who fled Honduras allowed to enter U.S.

Jerlín left country last month

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Jerlín at the offices of Organización Pro Unión Ceibeña (Oprouce), an advocacy group in La Ceiba, Honduras, on July 20, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

EAGLE PASS, Texas — A Transgender man who fled Honduras has been able to enter the U.S.

Jerlín, who the Washington Blade interviewed last summer in the Honduran city of La Ceiba, on Saturday entered the U.S. in Eagle Pass, Texas, after U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services granted his request for humanitarian parole that allows him to temporarily remain in the U.S.

Jerlín told the Blade in a previous interview that he and a small group of migrants left Honduras on Jan. 14.

He reached Piedras Negras, a Mexican border city that is across the Rio Grande from Eagle Pass on Jan. 24. Jerlín sought to enter the U.S., but U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers sent him back to Mexico under Title 42, a Center for Disease Control and Prevention rule that has closed the Southern border to most asylum seekers and migrants because of the pandemic.

Jerlín’s lawyer, Abdiel Echevarría-Caban, submitted the humanitarian parole application on his behalf.

Echevarría-Caban told the Blade that Jerlín plans to ask for asylum in the U.S. based on persecution due to his gender identity. Jerlín, whose legal name does not correspond with his gender identity, will pursue his case from Houston where his mother and sister live.

Violence and discrimination based on gender identity remains commonplace in Honduras.

Thalía Rodríguez, a prominent Trans activist, was murdered outside her home in Tegucigalpa, the country’s capital, on Jan. 11.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights last June issued a landmark ruling that found the Honduran state responsible for the murder of Vicky Hernández, a Trans activist who was killed in San Pedro Sula, the country’s second largest city, after the 2009 coup that ousted then-President Manuel Zelaya. (His wife, Xiomara Castro, took office as Honduras’ first female president on Jan. 26.) Cattrachas, a lesbian feminist human rights group in Tegucigalpa, notes Hernández and Rodríguez are two of the more than 400 LGBTQ+ people who have been reported killed in Honduras since 2009.

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Central America

First openly gay Honduras congressman reflects on election

Victor Grajeda hopes to expand opportunities for LGBTQ+ Hondurans

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Victor Grajeda is the first openly gay man elected to the Honduran Congress. He spoke with the Washington Blade on Feb. 7, 2022, in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras — The first openly gay man elected to the Honduran Congress on Monday described his election as a “very important” milestone for the country’s LGBTQ+ community.

“It is something that has marked a before and an after; a great responsibility fell on my shoulders,” Victor Grajeda told the Washington Blade during an interview in San Pedro Sula, the country’s second largest city.

Grajeda, 31, is from San Pedro Sula and works at a beauty supply store. He lives with his partner of 13 years and their two cats.

Congresswoman Silvia Ayala of the leftist Free Party ahead of Honduras’ congressional elections that took place on Nov. 28 tapped Grajeda to be her “suplente,” which is alternate in Honduran Spanish and within the structure of the country’s political system. He will represent Ayala in Congress if she cannot attend sessions in person.

Grajeda, who is one of five openly LGBTQ+ candidates who ran for Congress, received more than 100,000 votes. He and Ayala represent Cortés department in which San Pedro Sula is located.

Grajeda spoke with the Blade less than two weeks after President Xiomara Castro, who is also a member of the Free Party, took office.

Castro defeated Nasry Asfura, a member of former President Juan Orlando Hernández’s National Party who is the former mayor of Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital, in the presidential election’s first round that also took place on Nov. 28. A 2009 coup toppled Castro’s husband, former President Manuel Zelaya.

Vice President Kamala Harris, U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Vice President Kamala Harris and U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power are among the dignitaries who attended Castro’s inauguration that took place at Honduras’ national stadium in Tegucigalpa on Jan. 27.

The inauguration took place amid a bitter dispute among Free Party members over who would become the Congress’ next president. Grajeda, who attended Castro’s inauguration, nevertheless described the event as “a return of hope.”

“It will be a bit difficult for things to change overnight and for (Honduras) to be another country tomorrow where everything is happiness,” Grajeda told the Blade. “But (Castro’s inauguration) marks a change, a new hope, a new opportunity, fresh air.”

Grajeda described Hernández, whose brother, former Congressman Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernández, is serving a life sentence in the U.S. after a federal jury convicted him of trafficking tons of cocaine into the country, as a “narco president.” The Blade spoke with Grajeda hours after Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the U.S. had officially sanctioned the former Honduran president for corruption.

“It was only a matter of time,” said Grajeda.

‘We had three murders in less than 24 hours’

Discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity remain commonplace in Honduras.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights in a landmark ruling it issued last June said the Honduran state was responsible for the murder of Vicky Hernández, a Transgender activist who was killed in San Pedro Sula hours after the 2009 coup.

Cattrachas, a lesbian feminist human rights group in Tegucigalpa, notes Vicky Hernández and more than 400 other LGBTQ+ people have been killed in Honduras since 2009.

Thalía Rodríguez, a prominent Trans activist, was killed outside her Tegucigalpa home on Jan. 11. Three LGBTQ+ people, including a gay couple in San Pedro Sula, were reported murdered in Honduras on Feb. 2.

Thalía Rodríguez in her Tegucigalpa home. She was murdered on Jan. 11, 2022. (Photo by Amilcar Cárcamo/Reportar sin Miedo)

Castro has not publicly commented on the Vicky Hernández ruling, but she has expressed support for marriage rights for same-sex couples. Grajeda noted to the Blade that Castro has also called for the legal recognition of Trans Hondurans and supports “safe spaces” for LGBTQ+ people.

“The issue of violence, the issue of spaces is serious,” said Grajeda. “We had three murders in less than 24 hours.”

Harris and other Biden administration officials have acknowledged anti-LGBTQ+ violence is one of the “root causes” of migration from Honduras and neighboring countries.

Grajeda told the Blade that expanding access to education is a “key issue with respect to opportunities for the LGBT community.” Grajeda also said Trans Hondurans in particular need more access to formal employment.

“The only opportunities available to Trans people are to work as prostitutes, as sex workers,” he said.

“The same stigma that discriminates against them leaves them without access to education,” added Grajeda. “There are people (in the trans community) who are very intelligent, very capable.”

Harris comments about migrants ‘understandable’

Many of the migrant caravans that hope to reach the U.S. leave from San Pedro Sula’s main bus station.

Immigrant rights groups in the U.S. last June criticized Harris when she told migrants from Central America not to travel to the U.S.-Mexico border. Grajeda described Harris’ comments as “understandable.”

“It is a position that she has because it is her country,” said Grajeda. “We cannot close our eyes to the fact that a really large number of people who go (to the border) are not all that legal, and that creates a burden.”

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