Honduran LGBT leader Nelson Arambu, from the Movimiento de Diverisdad en Resistencia, addressed a crowd of about 60 people at the Berger Park Cultural Center July 2. Arambu spoke about the issues facing LGBT people in Honduras and the links between the U.S. and Honduran governments.
Arambu, who is openly gay, shared background information on the 2009 U.S.-backed coup in Honduras. ( U.S. involvement in the Honduran coup was revealed in the WikiLeaks documents that Chelsea Manning released. ) After the coup, wealthy and powerful Hondurans launched a wave of violence against those who opposed the government including the LGBT community, campesinos ( peasant farmers ), unionists, human-rights activists and journalists.
Honduras now holds the distinction of having the highest murder rate in the world with 25,000 people killed since the coup, Arambu noted. The police and army have committed most of these crimes and other countries are complicit because they have ignored what is going on in Honduras, said Arambu.
"Is the U.S. population aware of the amount of tax dollars they are sending to the Honduran government? Do they know that the Honduran government is complicit in the violence perpetrated against Honduran LGBT people and other human-rights activists?" said Arambu.
The coup was a Stonewall moment for Honduran LGBTs, Arambu explained, because the LGBT community started looking outside of itself and began working with other activist organizations to effect change. Arambu noted that Honduras is one of the most homophobic and transphobic countries in the Americas. A number of LGBT Honduran’s are fleeing the country due to the homophobia/transphobia and violence they’ve faced with many seeking asylum in the U.S., Spain and Costa Rica, said Arambu.
Since the coup, two notable LGBT activists have been murdered—Walter Trochez in 2009 and Erick Martinez Avila in 2012—and neither murder has been investigated, said Arambu. The number of LGBT murders versus the number that have been investigated and prosecuted is stark with only one person going to prison, Arambu explained. Due to the level of violence against LGBT people, they’ve established safety protocols so every LGBT activist always know where the others are located, he added.
Honduras’ Law of State Secrecy has prevented citizens from getting accurate information and the government is also policing all media outlets including people’s social media accounts in order to crack down on activists, said Arambu.
Religious institutions have contributed to the homophobia/transphobia in Honduras; however, the LGBT community has allies within certain churches/denominations, said Arambu.
Arambu explained that the U.S. government backed the coup because they wanted to have military bases in Honduras so they could control the region and their efforts were rewarded by the new Honduran government. Lisa Kubiske, the U.S. Ambassador to Honduras, has praised the Honduran government for the reduction of murders in Honduras; however, the official U.S. reports state the opposite, said Arambu.
Following Arambu’s remarks, Andy Thayer of the Gay Liberation Network called on attendees to donate to the Honduran Solidarity Network so they can continue their work and spread their message.
Among those in attendance were Gary Cozette of the Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Central America; Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Commissioner Debra Shore; and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky’s district director, Leslie Comb.
The event was co-sponsored by ALMA: The Association of Latinos/as Motivating Action, the Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America, Gay Liberation Network, Orgullo en Accion and La Voz de los de Abajo.
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