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Latin America elections challenges, opportunities for LGBTQ people

Activists throughout the region agree the elections offer a crucial opportunity to advance the inclusion and protection of LGBTQ+ rights

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Richelle Briceño was a candidate for the Venezuelan National Assembly in the country's last elections. (Photo courtesy of Richelle Briceño)

By Esteban Rioseco | CARACAS, Venezuela – Activists throughout the region agree the elections offer a crucial opportunity to advance the inclusion and protection of the rights of their community amid far-right advances.

Venezuela’s presidential election will take place on July 28, while Brazil’s municipal elections will happen on Oct. 6. Regional and municipal elections will take place in Chile on Oct. 27. Uruguay’s congressional elections are slated to occur on the same day.

María José Cumplido, executive director of Fundación Iguales in Chile, emphasized the importance of having LGBTQ representation in politics. 

“It is fundamental because LGBTQ+ people tend to support laws or public policies aimed at protecting the community,” Cumplido told the Washington Blade. “In that sense, it is important that the voices of these people are heard because, obviously, they know the reality more closely and many times they have lived it.” 

Cumplido noted “LGBTQ+ representation has grown notoriously in recent years, so much so that today there is an LGBTQ+ caucus in Congress.” 

“That is good news,” said Cumplido.

Ignacia Oyarzún, president of Organizado Trans Diversidades (Organizing Trans Diversities or OTD), also from Chile, highlighted the observation and registration work the Trans Voting Observatory of Latin America and the Caribbean has done. Oyarzún also noted the promotion of transgender candidates as a way to combat misinformation a promote respect for the community’s political rights.

“We monitor the situation of the political rights of our communities in the region and establish guidelines through which we encourage respect for the right to elect representatives and to be elected,” said Oyarzún. “We also maintain initiatives that have to do with the dissemination of trans candidacies and news that go against the disinformation established through false news that have begun to circulate through the various social and political media.”

Collette Spinetti, president of the Colectivo Trans del Uruguay, pointed out the challenges faced by LGBTQ people in politics, especially trans people.

“The biggest challenge is to achieve trustworthiness especially towards gender-dissident people in their ability to be able to hold public office,” said Spinetti.

Professor Collete Spinetti has dedicated many years of her life to improving living conditions for LGBTQ people in Uruguay (Photo courtesy of Collete Spinetti)

“In Uruguay politics is still quite macho, especially in the so-called traditional and right-wing parties where there is no political representation of members of the LGBTIQ+ community,” Spinetti further explained. “On the left, although there is, thanks to internal work, female representation, there is still a lack of work.”

“In this sense the scarce LGBTIQ+ representation is present through gay men,” added Spinetti. “There is still no representation of publicly lesbian people and only one representation in the interior of the country of a trans woman.” 

In Brazil, Keila Simpson, president of Associaçao Nacional de Travestis e Transexuais (National Association of Travestis and Transsexuals or ANTRA), highlighted the diversity of LGBTQ representation in the country’s politics. Simpson nevertheless recognized the importance of mandates that go beyond identity and address a wide range of issues that benefit the entire community.

“The challenges for LGBTQIA people when it comes to applying for positions in Brazil are many,” she said. “The first one is the way Brazilian society sees this stigmatized and completely stereotyped population. If we think about the trans population, this violence is even greater, since in addition to being smaller in number, the discrimination is even greater because this population is commonly associated with eroticism and hypersexualization of their bodies, and these are the main problems these people face. they are associated when they run for prominent positions or leaders, even in the partisan political arena.” 

Associaçao Nacional de Travestis e Transexuais (ANTRA) President Keila Simpson at her office in Salvador, Brazil, on March 16, 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

In Venezuela, Richelle Briceño, a trans woman and former congressional candidate, on the other hand, lamented the lack of presidential candidacies that explicitly defend LGBTQ rights. She noted the country still faces fundamental challenges that prevent a serious debate on these issues.

“There are candidates who have expressed themselves against non-discrimination, but that’s as far as it goes,” Briceño recounted. “There are no specific candidates that I can tell you who even handle what the definition of the word queer is and how it is understood, let’s say, within LGBTQ+ activism.”

Briceño said María Corina Machado, an opposition leader who President Nicolás Maduro’s government has barred from running for office, has “come out in favor of issues such as equal civil marriage and the issue of recognition of trans identities.” Briceño noted to the Blade that Edmundo González Urrutia, who is running as her surrogate, did not meet with LGBTQ activists until last week.

“These activists exposed their points of view, however, the current candidate leading the polls has not made a public statement regarding his position or what his position will be on the issues of LGBT rights in Venezuela,” said Briceño.

Briceño further stressed that Venezuela “is still in a cave.” 

“Here the country is in the basics, the country is in not losing electricity, in having water and in seeing how people eat daily,” she said. “The political and economic crisis that we have lived through for two decades, and with more depth in the last decade, has not allowed for a serious debate on the issues of the 21st century, including the rights of sexual diversity populations or the LGBT population and women”.

José Rodríguez, a Venezuelan psychologist who, like many of his compatriots had to leave his country, said that “as a young Venezuelan exiled in Chile for eight years, today I feel the tranquility of living in a society where a governmental interest in the welfare of my community is appreciated, expressed by a legal framework that although it could be better; compared to the overwhelming setbacks that have occurred in recent weeks in neighboring countries and the constant lethargy of Venezuela in terms of advancing the LGBTQIA+ agenda, is deeply painful and worrying.”

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Photo Credit: Movilh

Esteban Rioseco is a Chilean digital communicator, LGBT rights activist and politician. He was spokesperson and executive president of the Homosexual Integration and Liberation Movement (Movilh). He is currently a Latin American correspondent for the Washington Blade.

On Oct. 22, 2015, together with Vicente Medel, he celebrated the first gay civil union in Chile in the province of Concepción.

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Latin America

Violence against LGBTQ+ Ecuadorians increases amid ‘internal armed conflict’

Government has declared war against drug cartels

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Ecuador's Presidential Palace in Quito, Ecuador, in 2018 (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

BY ESTEBAN RIOSECO | GUAYAQUIL, Ecuador — The current crisis in Ecuador has exacerbated the vulnerability of the LGBTQ+ community, which was already facing high levels of violence and discrimination. 

A report that Runa Sipiy published notes 27 LGBTQ+ people were reported murdered in the country in 2023, and government authorities did not adequately respond to them. This situation has intensified during the armed conflict in the country.

Two LGBTQ people have already been reported killed in 2024. Diane Rodríguez, national director of the Ecuadorian Federation of LGBTI Organizations, described the Ecuadorian government’s measures in response of ensuring LGBTQ+ people remain safe as insufficient and inattentive.

Ecuador in 2019 extended marriage rights to same-sex couples. They can also adopt children, while Transgender people can change their legal documentation. The country’s constitution includes sexual orientation and gender identity within the protected categories against discrimination.

Challenges nevertheless persist: Awareness and full implementation of laws and the continued need for efforts to ensure Ecuadorian society is more respectful of sexual and gender diversity.

Rodríguez told the Washington Blade “the current security crisis in Ecuador has had a direct impact on the LGBTQ community.”

“LGBTQ people were already more prone to violence and discrimination before the crisis, and this situation has worsened even more in recent months,” she said.

The activist added that “we believed that, with the new government of Daniel Noboa, things would improve, but we are finding that they will not, since his own human rights institutions, such as the Ministry of Women and Human Rights, omit our situation or hold cosmetic LGBT+ meetings, in the manner of pinkwashing of the current government.”

Diane Rodríguez (Photo courtesy of Diane Rodríguez)

According to Asociación Silueta X, an organization that works for the rights of LGBTQ+ people in Ecuador, an increase in incidents of violence and discrimination towards LGBTQ+ people has been observed during this period of crisis. These incidents include physical attacks, verbal harassment and discrimination in accessing public services. 

“This week, for example, Beba was murdered on the afternoon of Jan. 8, 2024, shot in her native Pueblo Viejo, Los Rios province in Ecuador, in the context of the ‘internal armed conflict’ of the country and the state of emergency declared by the president of the republic,” said Rodríguez. “So far, no government department has spoken out about these Trans murders, much less the Undersecretary of Diversities or the Ministry of Women and Human Rights.” 

Rodríguez in 2017 became the first openly Trans person elected to the country’s National Assembly when she became an alternate assemblywoman. She has also been president of Asociación Silueta X.

Rodríguez said the violence has disproportionately affected Trans, lesbian and bisexual women. 

“We trans people are especially vulnerable to sexual violence and human trafficking,” she said. “This is not only because of those who promote the internal armed conflict related to narco-crime, but also because of the police and army personnel themselves, who in critical events such as the COVID-19 pandemic, abused their power and violated the rights of trans people, especially trans women, so we are fearful on both sides.” 

“In Ecuador LGBT+ people and especially trans women are afraid of those who should protect us, such as the police and the army,” added Rodríguez.

Christian Paula, executive director of Fundación Pakta, noted to the Blade informed that “a case arose over the weekend, where a couple was violating the curfew, apparently a couple of gay guys on a motorcycle after 11 p.m. and the police asked why they were both on a motorcycle so late at night”.

“They had indicated that they are a couple and what (was outrageous) is that they stripped them naked and sent them without clothes to return to the house,” noted Paula.

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LGBTQ+ bars in Latin America: A reporter’s notebook

These spaces are not available to everyone

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A drag queen dressed as Frida Kahlo at Porky’s Divine in Mexicali, Mexico, on July 22, 2018. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Editor’s note: ReVista: the Harvard Review of Latin America originally published this story on Oct. 5.

La Purísima is an unapologetically irreverent gay bar on Avenida República de Cuba in downtown Mexico City. One of its most endearing features is the staff who dress as Catholic priests and nuns.

I was on assignment in Mexico City for the Washington Blade, the oldest LGBTQ+ newspaper in the United States for which I am the international news editor, in July when I decided to go to la Purí, as the bar’s known for short. I arrived shortly after 11 a.m. and spent the next 90 minutes or so dancing and slowly sipping shots of mezcal. I was walking outside to get some fresh air when Sergio, a staff person who was dressed as a priest, approached me in the hallway that led to the door and asked me if I wanted to go to confession. I said yes, and he led me to a small booth on the sidewalk. He unlocked the makeshift confessional and we went inside. I had learned in my childhood Confraternity of Christian Doctrine class at St. Thomas Aquinas Church that what one says inside a confessional remains between the penitent, the priest (and God.) I am not one to question Sergio’s standing within the church, but that night at la Purí was quite a memorable one.

I have reported from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Miami, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Peru, Chile and Brazil since the Blade hired me in 2012. One of the “traditions” that I have while on assignment in a particular place is to visit a gay bar. Community, regardless of place, is critically important and gay bars are a good way to interact with a certain segment of it that is privileged enough to have access to these spaces.

Some of my favorite places that I have visited while in Latin America are gay bars and clubs. They offer patrons a safe (and fun) place to be themselves, but before I list them I would like to note that not all LGBTQ+ people have access to these safe spaces.

• Bar Lou Lou is a small bar on Rua Teixeira de Melo in the heart of Rio de Janeiro’s Ipanema neighborhood. I was on assignment in Brazil twice in 2022 to cover the country’s presidential election. One night after dinner, I discovered the bar, a couple of blocks from the apartment in which I stayed while I was in Rio in March 2022.

I saw Pride flags and a group of people standing outside on the sidewalk. Walking inside, I ordered a caipirinha and soaked up the lively atmosphere. I returned to the bar a couple of days after. It was my last night in Rio before I flew back to D.C. A Brazilian volleyball player introduced himself to me and invited me to hang out with a group of people from the United States, France and the U.K. whom he had just met. I speak limited Portuguese and his English was limited, but the language barrier did not matter to me and to the group of friends we had just made. We danced and drank caipirinhas for several hours inside the bar and on the sidewalk until closing time at midnight. We exchanged phone numbers and Instagram handles before we hugged each other and said goodbye. I remain in touch with several of them today.

A patron at Bar Lou Lou in Rio de Janeiro on March 18, 2022 (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

• Indie Lounge is a gay bar in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, that I visited on Feb. 9, 2022, while I was on assignment in the country. Vice President Kamala Harris and U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power had attended Honduran President Xiomara Castro’s inauguration a few weeks earlier. I was driving to an interview with Victor Grajeda, the first openly gay man elected to the Honduran Congress, in San Pedro Sula, two days earlier when I heard on the radio the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced sanctions against former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández for corruption. (Honduran authorities on Feb. 15, 2022, arrested Hernández at his Tegucigalpa home after the United States requested his extradition on drug trafficking and weapons charges. Hernández’s brother, former Congressman Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernández, is serving a life sentence in the United States after a federal jury convicted him of trafficking tons of cocaine into the country.) On the night I visited, Indie Lounge staff invited patrons to submit messages that would then appear on television screens throughout the bar. One of the messages read, ‘happy divorce, Andrés.” My husband’s name is Andrés, and I began to laugh when I saw it.

Indie Lounge in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, on Feb. 9, 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

• Las Tunas, Cuba, is a provincial capital about 400 miles southeast of Havana. The National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX), a group directed by Mariela Castro, the daughter of former Cuban President Raúl Castro, organized a series of events in the city in May 2015 to commemorate the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBiT), which honors the World Health Organization’s decision to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder on May 17, 1990.

The bone-jarring drive from Havana to Las Tunas took more than 10 hours, and I finally arrived in the city shortly before 1 a.m. on May 16. The IDAHOBiT march that Mariela Castro led took place a few hours later. She and two activists later paid homage to Vicente García, a leading figure in the 10 Years’ War from 1868-1878 during which Cubans fought for independence from Spain, during a ceremony that took place in Las Tunas’ main square.

CENESEX also organized a party at a local nightclub on the city’s outskirts. It was around 2:30 a.m. on May 17 when a local bus driver introduced himself to me and asked if I wanted to go to the “after party.” I was exhausted, but I nevertheless accepted the invitation. I had never been to Cuba before, and I took him at his word when he told me that we would take a taxi to the restaurant where the party was taking place. We walked outside and climbed into a horse-drawn cart that brought us, his friends and a drag queen to the party. Our boisterous group made jokes and laughed at each other as the cart made its way through the city. The trip took less than 15 minutes, and the party continued once we arrived at the restaurant. Dawn was breaking when I returned to my hotel. I rested for a couple of hours and then began the long drive back to Havana. (I had reported from Cuba several more times when I arrived at Havana’s José Martí International Airport on May 8, 2019. Cuban customs officials told me that my name was “on a list” and they would not allow me into the country. I spent the next seven hours at the airport before an agent escorted me onto a flight back to Miami. The Cuban government has still not provided me with an official explanation of their decision not to allow me into the country. A contact suggested Mariela Castro, who is a member of the Cuban National Assembly, told the government not to allow me into the country because she did not want me to cover an LGBTQ+ rights march that independent activists organized in Havana three days later. The Cuban government has, to my knowledge, never publicly disclosed why it decided to prevent me from entering the country. I explained what happened to a press attaché at the Cuban Embassy in Washington me in July 2021 after he emailed me about meeting for coffee. He clearly did not know what his government had done to me. I did not hear back from him after I told him what happened.

• Mexicali is a Mexican border city that borders Calexico, Calif., in the Imperial Valley. I was on assignment in the area in July 2018.

The temperature was well over 100°F when I parked my rental car in a parking lot in Calexico at shortly after 8 p.m. on July 21, walked to the border crossing and entered Mexicali. I had a couple of tacos at a small, family-run restaurant and then walked to Taurinos Bar, a gay bar a few blocks south of the border. Patrons were playing pool and drinking beers while I asked the manager about then-U.S. President Donald Trump’s immigration policies and their impact on LGBTQ+ people. I finished the interview and then walked to Porky’s Divine, another gay bar three blocks south of the border. A California woman and members of her bachelorette party were among those who were inside when go go boys took the stage. A drag queen dressed as Frida Kahlo was among those who also performed. The temperate was still around 100°F when I left Porky’s Divine shortly after 1 a.m. on July 22. I stopped at a nearby convenience store to buy a bottle of water and a bag of potato chips before I walked back through the border crossing and into California. I was back at my hotel in El Centro, roughly 12 miles away, in less than half an hour.

Not everyone can access these spaces: They often have cover charges, and that cost, along with drinks and transportation to/from them, are prohibitive to someone who is not economically privileged. And this economic privilege often goes hand-in-hand with violence and discrimination based on factors that include sexual orientation, gender identity and race.

“Access to a car or a job that does not involve sex work could very well mean the difference between life and death for a trans Salvadoran woman or a gay man who is perceived to be too effeminate,” I wrote in the Blade on Feb. 7, 2017, after my first reporting trip to El Salvador. “Many of these people feel as though they have no other option than to leave the country and migrate to the U.S.”

Alexa, a transgender woman with whom I spoke for the Blade in La Ceiba, Honduras, on July 20, 2021, told me it is “very difficult to lead the lifestyle that we lead as trans women” in the country because of discrimination and a lack of employment opportunities because of her gender identity. Alexa spent nearly three years in prison after authorities charged her with attempted murder, even though she claimed she was defending herself against a woman who was hitting her in the face with a rock.

She told me a Salvadoran man raped her in prison. Alexa also said the warden forced her to cut her hair and guards doused her with cold water in an isolation cell after the attack.

“I was a woman,” said Alexa. “They made me a man.”

We were both crying during the interview. We embraced each other for several minutes when it was done.

These stories are incredibly difficult to hear, and they are indicative of the reality for many LGBTQ+ people in the region who struggle to survive on a daily basis. It is crucially important to share these stories. It is also equally as important to show our readers there are safe spaces in Latin America that offer LGBTQ+ people a safe place where they can be themselves. Bars and clubs such venues.

Theatrón in Bogotá, Colombia, on Sept. 19, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
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Transgender woman running to become Venezuela’s next president

Assemblywoman Tamara Adrián a candidate in party’s Oct. 22 primary

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Venezuelan National Assemblywoman Tamara Adrián completes paperwork to run in the country's presidential election. (Photo courtesy of Tamara Adrián)

CARACAS, Venezuela – Tamara Adrián less than two weeks ago registered as a presidential candidate in the Venezuelan primary, becoming the first openly transgender person in the world to make such a move.

The 69-year-old lawyer, university professor and LGBTQ and intersex rights defender is running to represent the Unidos por la Dignidad political movement and will have to compete with at least 10 other candidates in the country’s Oct. 22 primary.

“I am the first transgender in history to officially run in a presidential election,” Adrián told the Blade.

Whoever wins the primary will have to compete against President Nicolás Maduro in 2024.

Adrián wants to be the person to confront Chavismo in her country.

“We have united all the parties and political forces in Venezuela, from the left to the right, with a common goal, which is to end the regime of Nicolás Maduro,” she explained to the Blade. 

For her, it is very important to oust Maduro and help Venezuela get out of the humanitarian and economic crisis that is affecting millions of people in the South American country.

Many Venezuelans do not have any food in their homes. A lack of work, low salaries and poor access to health care has caused millions of them to migrate to other countries in search of a better life. 

Discrimination and violence against LGBTQ and intersex Venezuelans remains commonplace, so Adrián’s candidacy affords visibility.

“I am proud to be who I am,” she said. “I want any LGBTQ person living in this hostile country to know that you can get ahead and even become a presidential candidate.”

“I say the things that no one says,” added Adrián, who noted this attribute sets her apart from her competitors and other Venezuelan politicians. 

One of her main campaign promises will be to work for the inclusion of “people with disabilities, women, senior citizens, civil servants, LGBTIQ+ people, people of African descent, indigenous people, any group that, for whatever reason, has been or may be left behind.”

Venezuela’s last presidential election took place in 2018, and Venezuelans and the international community deemed them illegal. This determination provoked the rise of interim President Juan Guaidó who the U.S. and dozens of other countries recognized as the country’s president.

Opposition leaders were imprisoned, exiled or disqualified from participating in the election and international observers were not in the country. The National Electoral Council said 46 percent of eligible voters participated in the election, which means more than half of the electorate did not vote.

“Effectively there are less and less voters in the elections and this has to do with the fact that people are losing confidence in the processes,” said Adrián. “There is a feeling that the results will be manipulated and not respected.”

She nevertheless stressed Venezuelans must keep trying and demanding transparency in their country’s political process in order for a united opposition can win elections democratically and focus on building a better future for the country.

“We know that the scenario is difficult but we are not going to lower our arms because we have to put an end to this crisis,” said Adrián. “We are going with everyone and for everyone.”

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Anti-LGBTQ+ candidates win Paraguay elections

Country’s president-elect is member of ruling Colorado Party

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Paraguayan President-elect Santiago Peña (Screen capture via Al Jazeera English)

ASUNCIÓN, Paraguay — Paraguay’s presidential and congressional elections took place on April 30.

No openly queer candidates ran in the elections, while the presidential hopefuls did not put forth proposals in favor of LGBTQ+ and intersex Paraguayans. Anti-LGBTQ+ leaders, however, during the campaign managed to deepen discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity through hate speech in public debates.

Paraguay is one of the Latin American countries without any public policy or legislation that protects queer rights.

Current President Mario Abdo’s Colorado Party will remain in power after President-elect Santiago Peña won the presidential election.

“There is not much surprise in how the Colorados operated, nor is it surprising that people’s discontent seeks an outlet in more extreme candidacies,” Gabriel Grommeck of SomosGay, a Paraguayan LGBTQ+ and intersex rights group, told the Washington Blade after the election results became known.

Grommeck pointed to the “American syndrome of extreme positions based on disinformation, which, when agitated by the media and social networks managed by corporations, are transformed into successful candidacies.” 

“It is very present here,” said Grommeck.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry last November issued a circular to all of its branches that contained a “glossary” of recommended terms to used in discussions and negotiations on gender issues. The document said these terms are not “universally accepted” and “could collide with legal regulations of our country.”

The prohibited terms are:

• “Women and girls in all their diversity” 

• “Diversity”

• “Intersectionality”

• “Sexual and reproductive rights” 

• “Full autonomy”

“The government interprets the concept ‘gender’ as referring to the male and female sexes, and with that scope it has been incorporated into national documents,” reads the circular. “Its objective was to ‘instruct’ diplomats not to use ‘ambiguous’ or ‘undefined’ terminology. 

Grommeck told the Blade the Colorado Party’s victory amounts to a defeat for the country’s LGBTQ+ and intersex rights movement, which will have for four more years a government that has deepened inequity for queer people in the South American country. Grommeck also said the Paraguayan Congress has little interest in increased inclusion.

“We don’t see much opportunity,” said Grommeck. “The makeup of the Parliament makes it very difficult to make any progress in the next legislature.”

Openly gay U.S. Ambassador to Paraguay Marc Ostfield on April 30 congratulated Peña after his election.

“We congratulate the Paraguayan people and President-elect Santiago Peña for another day of civil participation,” tweeted Ostfield. “We will continue to work together to strengthen our excellent bilateral relations and promoting transparency and an inclusive democracy.”

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Fallece la primera persona trans electa para un cargo público en Latinoamérica

Alejandra González era concejala en Chile

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Alejandra González (Foto cortesía de Movilh)

Por Stephanie Mondragón

LAMPA, Chile — Originaria de Batuco, Chile, Alejandra González, 54, sobresalió por ser la primera mujer trans elegida para un cargo público, no solo en su país, sino en América Latina. La concejala fue encontrada el 5 de octubre en su domicilio sin vida, a consecuencia de una falla cardiaca.

“Alejandra abrió los cargos de elección a la población LGBTIQ+ en Chile y en América Latina y con su ejemplo enseñó a muchos y muchas a luchar por la plena igualdad de derechos. Estamos tristes con su partida”, señaló Rolando Jiménez, dirigente de Movilh.

Fungió como una política destacada y luego de enfrentarse a la transfobia en repetidas ocasiones fue en diciembre de 2017 que la Corte Suprema aplicó a su favor la Ley Zamudio, organismo encargado del imperio del derecho para no cometer discriminaciones arbitrarias, dado a que en repetidas ocasiones se irrespetó su nombre y sexo social.

González fue electa como concejal de Lampa por tres periodos consecutivos, posicionándose en el cargo desde 2004 al 2012. De igual manera, la chilena se convirtió en la primera alcaldesa subrogante trans del país en 2012 cuando Graciela Ortúzr dejó su puesto para hacer campaña.

“Perdimos a una gran mujer, a una gran activista, a una luchadora incansable, de esas que dieron la pelea contra viento y marea y en contextos ciudadanos casi totalmente transfobicos. Alejandra queda para siempre en la memoria de nuestras luchas. Su legado es histórico y único”, señaló Jimenez.

Su carrera política dio inicio luego de ser presidenta de una junta de vecinos en Lampa en 1995, administrar un circo de transformistas y tener su propia peluquería.

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Brazilian police call for Bolsonaro to face charges over false COVID-19 claims

Country’s president claimed vaccines increase AIDS risk

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Anti-Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro flyers on Paulista Avenue in São Paulo, on March 13, 2022. Federal prosecutors have asked for Bolsonaro to be charged with incitement over his false COVID-19 claims that include an assertion that people who are vaccinated are at increased risk for AIDS. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

BRASÍLIA, Brazil — Federal police in Brazil have called for prosecutors to charge President Jair Bolsonaro with incitement for spreading false information about COVID-19.

O Globo, a Brazilian newspaper, on Wednesday reported a Federal Police investigator in a letter to the Federal Supreme Court specifically cited Bolsonaro’s claim that people who receive a COVID-19 vaccine are at increased risk for AIDS. 

Bolsonaro made the comment on Oct. 21, 2021, during a live social media broadcast. Several HIV/AIDS service providers and LGBTQ and intersex activists with whom the Washington Blade spoke in March while reporting from Brazil noted it.

O Globo reports Bolsonaro could face up to six months in prison if convicted of incitement.

The first round of Brazil’s presidential election will take place on Oct. 2.

Bolsonaro — a former Brazilian Army captain who represented Rio de Janeiro in the country’s Congress from 1991-2018 — is running against former President President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Bolsonaro has been widely criticized over his rhetoric against LGBTQ+ and intersex Brazilians, women and other underrepresented groups in the country. Bolsonaro has also faced criticism for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and his stance towards people with HIV/AIDS, among other things.

Polls indicate Da Silva, who is a member of Brazil’s Workers’ Party, is ahead of Bolsonaro. The incumbent president has sought to discredit Brazil’s electoral system amid growing concerns that violence could erupt if he does not accept the election results if he loses.

“I do believe it is extremely important to create a medicine to stop this man,” Mariah Rafaela Silva, a Transgender woman of indigenous descent who works with the Washington-based International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights, told the Blade on Thursday after news that federal prosecutors have called for Bolsonaro’s indictment.

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Peru refuses to recognize lesbian congresswoman’s Miami marriage

Susel Paredes married her wife in Miami in 2016

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Susel Paredes, left, and Gracia Aljovín during an interview on Peruvian television in 2019. (Photo courtesy of Latina.pe)

LIMA, Peru — Peruvian Congresswoman Susel Paredes and her wife, Gracia Aljovín, have told the Washington Blade that they will sue Peru over its refusal to recognize their 2016 marriage in Miami.

Paredes and Aljovín made the decision after the Peruvian Constitutional Court denied their request to register their marriage. The couple had previously filed a request with the National Registry of Identification and Civil Status (RENIEC), which was also denied.

Peru’s highest court by a 4-2 margin rejected the women’s petition, noting the “essential elements” of marriage in the country are “a voluntary union … to be celebrated between a man and a woman,” and as a consequence “a right acquired abroad that collides with this notion cannot be recognized in Peru.” 

The majority of the judges who ruled against Paredes and Aljovín also noted they cannot reproduce.

Some organizations described the ruling as anti-LGBTQ+ because it also establishes that “homosexual unions are not marriages, so it is not discriminatory not to recognize them as such” and that the court cannot “introduce equal marriage through the window because this is the work of the legislator.” At the same time, the court said that if Congress wants to introduce same-sex marriage in Peru, it must do so through a constitutional reform.

Paredes, along with regretting the decision, acknowledged to the Blade that “it was bad news that I was already expecting.” 

“We knew this was going to happen because I am not only an activist and congresswoman, I am a lawyer, so I follow the criteria. One can predict what is going to happen with a sentence when there are predictable judges. These judges are predictable,” she said from her congressional office in Lima, the Peruvian capital, during a video call. “The truth is that it is outrageous because I pay my taxes, I have lived with my partner for years, we have a family, so how is it possible that our family is denied its existence, because we exist.” 

The congresswoman said that “in the first instance we are going to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The commission must evaluate if it qualifies and if it qualifies in our favor, we go to the court and in the court we vote and I am sure we will win.” 

Peru is one of the few countries in Latin America that does not have any laws in favor of LGBTQ+ people. A marriage equality bill that former Congressman Alberto de Belaunde, who is gay, introduced has been dormant in a congressional committee for years.

Paredes said the right wing will “undoubtedly use” the ruling “and its foundations, but its foundations are very fragile.”

De Belaunde has a similar opinion. 

“Congress will use this ruling as an excuse not to legislate on this issue. If they feel a lot of media pressure, they will look for a sort of patrimonial civil union, where the existence of a family is not recognized, but only a shared patrimony,” said the former congressman. “An absolutely insufficient figure, which will not be accepted by the LGBT+ communities because it is almost an insult to our claims to be recognized as full citizens.” 

For him “the ruling not only seeks to deny the recognition of rights, it seeks to do harm.” 

“Contrary to what the Constitutional Court has previously said, it seeks to discredit the Inter-American Court of Human Rights by pointing out that its advisory opinions should not be complied with,” he said. “It is a mediocre ruling — it ignores basic concepts of private international law, but it is no less harmful for that.” 

Both agreed that Congress has little political will to process the bill. 

“Laws have been passed that have been presented much later than the date when the marriage law was presented, which was in October of last year,” Paredes emphasized to the Blade. “There is a political will to prevent if you want it to be discussed.”

Pía Bravo, executive director of Presentes, a Peruvian LGBTQ+ rights advocacy group, told the Blade that they were hopeful that the ruling could have enshrined the first legal recognition for LGBTQ+ people in the country. 

“The Constitutional Court was an opportunity we missed,” Bravo lamented. “It is a pretty big setback and it is a setback that unfortunately we are going to have to continue, to continue facing and seeing what other paths, what other ways we can find so that this so necessary right is finally approved.”

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Latin America

LGBTQ+ lawmakers in Latin America pledge to end conversion therapy in region

Agreement signed at Global Equality Caucus meeting in Argentina

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The Global Equality Caucus held a meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina, from May 16-17, 2022. (Photo courtesy of the Global Equality Caucus)

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Openly LGBTQ+ lawmakers from across Latin America who gathered in Argentina’s capital last week agreed to work together to ban so-called conversion therapy in the region.

The second meeting of the Global Equality Caucus’ Latin America chapter took place in Buenos Aires. Those who attended agreed the effort to ban conversion therapy in the region would begin in countries where openly LGBTQ+ people have been elected to public office and where allies can be identified.

“Efforts to correct sexual orientation and gender identity (ECOSIG), also misnamed ‘conversion therapies,’ lack scientific support and are based on prejudices contrary to the human dignity of all people,” reads the document signed at the end of the meeting. “The practice of ECOSIG has been widely spread and institutionalized in our region, outside the law, which represents a threat to all LGBTI+ people and, especially, to the youngest members of the LGBTI+ community.”

Erick Iván Ortiz, who oversees the Global Equality Caucus’ work in Latin America, told the Washington Blade that “this is a pact that we also signed in Mexico and implies the commitment of legislators to advance laws and public policies that allow us to eradicate once and for all, these misnamed conversion therapies”.

According to the Global Equality Caucus representative, the meeting served “to demonstrate that congresses, national governments and local governments can and should work together to advance the rights of LGBTI people and how Argentina and Mexico are good examples and good practices.” Ortiz also stressed that from now on they will be able to face any threat from anti-LGBTQ+ groups in Latin America, “who seek to roll back, paralyze progress or simply deny our rights.

“What we need is a coordinated response from those of us who are and will remain in the struggle to advance the rights of LGBTI people,” said Ortiz.

The first part of the launch of the Global Equality Caucus’ Latin America chapter took place in Mexico City on April 1-2. The second meeting took place in Argentina from May 16-17.

Mercosur Parliamentarian María Luisa Storani, Argentine National Assemblyman Maximiliano Ferraro, Argentine National Sen. Guadalupe Tagliaferri, Peruvian Congresswoman Susel Paredes and Guatemalan Congressman Aldo Dávila, among others, attended the Buenos Aires meeting.

“The meeting met the expectations we had of having the opportunity to show the good practices and legislative and public policy experiences that Argentina has,” Ortiz stressed. “This is particularly important because they are experiences that come from the global south that are already, in the case of the gender identity law, a decade old and that have left significant changes in the realities of many LGBTI people.”

The Global Equality Caucus pointed out launch’s objectives are to share experiences and create a peer-to-peer learning process. The group at the same time also wants to form and strengthen networks among LGBTQ+ lawmakers and allies throughout Latin America and to build a working agenda on LGBTQ+ rights issues in the region.

Dávila, who is the first openly gay man and first person with HIV elected to the Guatemalan Congress, spoke with the Blade at the end of the meeting.

“It was fantastic,” he said. “We were able to identify the gaps that have been there forever and the need to get more members of the community into elected office, it’s key. We need to work more together to push for changes in favor of LGBTQ people.”

For him, the most important agreement “is the creation of law initiatives together.”

“In that sense, we agreed to launch law initiatives that are closely related,” said Dávila. “For example, we will fight to ban the misnamed conversion therapies and we will do it jointly in June. That will be an important step if we do it all together in the region, I think we will send a great message of union.”

Mexico City Assemblyman Temístocles Villanueva, who participated in the first Global Equality Caucus meeting in his country, had a similar opinion.

Villanueva explained to the Blade that “it was an event for the construction of the public, political and legislative agenda in the field of human rights of people of sexual diversity, having given priority to the search for bridges for cooperation, joining national and international actors.”

“We have focused on the need to share and transmit the Latin American experience for the struggle, recognition and defense of LGBTTTI+ rights through international platforms such as the caucus, connecting local work with regional and transnational cooperation networks for the defense of central causes,” added Villanueva.

Ortiz said “the next step is the construction of a consensus agenda, based on the inputs gathered in Mexico and Argentina, which will allow us to build a shared agenda that we can promote in a coordinated and articulated manner with the different members of the network.”

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