The New President of Honduras will not Stop Hate Crimes

Source: VICE Mexico

In Honduras the LGBT movement is not fighting for gay marriage, instead their lives.

“Who is going to say, ‘I want to get married’ in this country when they are killing us?” asked activist Erick Martínez. Since the 2009 Coup d’état that ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, the murder rate has skyrocketed and violence against the “Sexual Diversity” community has become a daily occurrence.


Juan Orlando Hernández, the right wing National Party politician who was the declared winner in the presidential elections in Honduras, based his campaign on “christian values” against the homosexual community. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal announced Hernández as the winner, saying that he was 6 points ahead of Xiomara Castro of the LIBRE party (The Freedom and Re-foundation party), wife of former president Mel Zelaya who was ousted in the 2009 Coup. LIBRE, a new party that was born out of Coup resistance, has incorporated many members of the sexual diversity community in its ranks and has denounced fraud at the polls.


Martínez was the second openly gay candidate to run for congress as part of the LIBRE party. The first candidate, who bears the same name Erik Martínez Ávila, was strangled to death outside of Tegucigalpa, in 2012. I came across Martínez while he was smoking a cigarette outside of a press conference of international observers denouncing the electoral fraud. Even though he sported a bright rainbow flag on his shoulders, you could sense his melancholic vibe due to the results. “If Juan Orlando Hernández is our next president we won’t be able to stop the assassinations,” lamented Martínez.


Since the coup more than 115 members of the sexual diversity community have been assassinated, including 53 transsexual people. These are the cases that have been documented and who are known members of the LGBT community. Who knows how many have died without anyone taking notice. I don’t think anyone would be surprised by me saying that complete impunity exists in Honduras


Of the 115 mentioned cases, fewer than 30 percent have been investigated and fewer than six have entered a judicial process. According to Martínez, the government tries to distance themselves from this violence stating “that the assassins are our lovers and boyfriends and [the murders] are just crimes of passion. This is to free the state from the responsibility of searching for these invisible actors, who before the coup, were visible.” He also referred to members of the community who have been assassinated and their deaths were attributed to the typical scapegoats of violence; narcotrafficking and common crime.


As part of a worldwide tradition, the church in Honduras has fomented hate against the gay community. This year, Evangelical pastor, Evelio Reyes, smidgen with the National Party preached from the pulpit “don’t vote for homosexuals and lesbians who corrupt the model of God.” He was clearly referring to Xiomara and her support for the LGBT community. Reyes was initially punished for his proclamation and later released without charges.


The current president of Honduras, Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo has driven the process of militarization all across the country and on election day there were nearly 30,000 police officers and soldiers deployed to monitor the voting centers. They were supposedly there to prevent “violence”, but a group of female human rights observers said that their presence only instilled fear in people. In the community of Cantarranas, the night before the elections, María Amparo Pineda Duarte, a campesina leader was ambushed and assassinated along with another compañero.


Juan Orlando Hernández is the ex-president of Congress, and while in power he promoted the creation of a military police, who operate under the orders of army generals. José Palacios is part of the Diversity Movement in Resistance and says that the police and military are the principal actors in Latin America who perpetuate violence against the LGBT community. “They have a license to kill,” stated Palacios. He added, “the country has received criticisms both on a national and international level about the militarization and they don’t care.” The director of the national police, Juan Carlos El Tigre Bonilla, is under investigation for his role in death squads from over a decade ago.


Palacios also commented that while there is no formal documentation of this, it is possible that many LGBT people did not go to vote because of their fear of crossing paths with police and soldiers posted at the voting centers.


The number of Hondurans who migrate to the United States has skyrocketed since the coup. The majority of them go in search of work or to escape the violence in Central America, but the numbers have also been increasing of people requesting asylum because they have been threatened or attacked for being LGBT.

I asked Martínez if he would want to leave the country now that Hernández was going to be president. He said he had already wanted to request asylum when he was threatened by a police officer in cahoots with drug traffickers. But he also added that he also felt an obligation to stay in the country, because you can’t turn your back on a struggle that you already started; “Fear exists, but you can’t abandon the work here. It has already happened to us, we are victims of attacks and they take our lives away, so other people have the responsibility to raise the flag of sexual diversity, run with it and spark the flame.”