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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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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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