Waking up to the news of a friend’s death is sadly quite common in Honduras. The chances increase exponentially, however, if this friend dedicated his or her life to the defense of natural resources, human rights or belonged to the LGBTI community. On June 3rd, we faced this reality once more when we learned about the murder of René Martínez, LGBTI activist from San Pedro Sula, the most dangerous city in the world.
René was the president of the Comunidad Gay Sampedrana por la Salud Integral (San Pedro Gay Community for Integral Health), a partner organization of Hivos for over ten years. This was the first legally established organization in Honduras formed by volunteers working to fight against HIV/AIDS. The well-known phrase “I don’t agree with what you say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” is written at the bottom of the organization’s home page. In Honduras, saying something like this is an act of bravery.
René Martínez was the second LGBTI victim of violence this weekend in San Pedro Sula. Pamela Martínez, a trans woman from the Colectivo Unidad Color Rosa (Pink Unity Collective), received two gunshots but luckily survived. In 2015, LGBTI leader José Zambrano told the Honduran newspaper La Prensa that over 200 people from the LGBTI community had been killed in the last seven years.
Rene’s murder took place after other LGBTI community leaders – Alex Sorto, Elvin Ponce y Cidar Arias from the Asociación Jóvenes en Movimiento (Somos CDC) (Youth in Movement Association We are CDC) – reported being harassed and receiving death threats from the police and other groups several months previously.
René Martínez’ organization was a Hivos partner through the project “Building the foundations for a society respectful of human rights with the recognition of sexual diversity”. The project increased reporting of human right violations by members of the LGBTI community, broadened their participation in political advocacy and allowed the Honduran LGBTI community to be included in the National Coalition against Impunity.
The entire Hivos Community joins the demands of diverse organizations, including the European Union, who urge implementation of a protection mechanism for human right defenders, journalists and activists.
Hivos Latin America is about to launch a new project in Honduras focused on LGBTI communities and youth, areas that have been a part of the organization’s programing since the 1990s. These programs have included support, knowledge exchange, LGBTI rights advocacy, acceptance of sexual minorities, fighting homophobia, mobilization for political change and building global coalitions towards a more open society.
Read this news item in Spanish here.