(WB) A prominent Honduran activist would become the first openly LGBT person elected to the country’s Congress if he wins his campaign this year.

Erick Martínez, who is the coordinator of the Diversity Movement in Resistance’s Human Rights Committee, is one of 23 candidates from the Liberty and Refoundation and Anti-Corruption Parties, a left-leaning coalition that opposes President Juan Orlando Hernández’s ruling National Party, who are on the ballot in the Francisco Morazán Department in which Tegucigalpa is located. The five candidates who win the most votes in the March 12 primaries will advance to the general election that will take place in November.

“I know that the citizenry would pay close attention to LGTB people if they were in the Congress,” Martínez told the Washington Blade on Wednesday during an interview at a Tegucigalpa coffee shop that is near the U.S. Embassy. “This is a responsibility.

The Diversity Movement in Resistance formed in response to the 2009 coup that toppled then-President Manuel Zelaya.

Zelaya’s wife, Xiomara Castro, ran against Hernández in the country’s 2013 presidential election. She is once again running for president as the Liberty and Refoundation Party’s candidate.

Martínez is running on a platform that includes improving the Honduran health care system and access to it, eradicating violence against women and strengthening the country’s primary education system.

“The problem of violence is a health condition,” said Martínez.

Martínez spoke with the Blade less than 48 hours after gang members killed five people during a wake that was being held in Mirador de Oriente, a poor Tegucigalpa neighborhood, for a bus driver who had been murdered. The 20-year-old man was killed in the same house in which the massacre took place.

Honduras’ population is slightly more than 8 million people.

Martínez told the Blade that an average of 17 people are killed each day in the Central American country that borders Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua.

Rene Martínez, an activist and “well-known” member of the National Party, which is right-wing and has strong ties to Honduras’ Roman Catholic and evangelical churches, in the city of San Pedro Sula, was strangled to death last June. Cattrachas, a Tegucigalpa-based lesbian feminist network, notes 229 LGBT Hondurans are known to have been killed between 2009-2016.

Martínez told the Blade that women and LGBT Hondurans are the “most frequent victims” of violence and are the “most vulnerable.” He said lesbian and especially trans women are particularly susceptible.

“They are the most vulnerable,” said Martínez. “They are the most visible and are those who the citizenry targets for violence.”


Trans former candidate seeks asylum in Spain

Martínez was one of four openly LGBT candidates for the Liberty and Refoundation Party, which is known by the Spanish acronym LIBRE, who ran for the Honduran Congress in the 2012 primaries.

Victoria Gómez, a trans woman from the Francisco Morazán Department, has sought asylum in Spain after she was threatened and attacked in Tegucigalpa. Claudia Spellman, another trans woman who directed an HIV/AIDS service organization in San Pedro Sula, resettled in the D.C. area with her now wife after she received death threats.

Josué Hernández, who is a gay man, was a candidate from the Cortés Department in which San Pedro Sula is located.

Martínez told the Blade a government television station in 2012 said election officials were unable to “put a dog, a hen or a pig on candidates’ ballots before placing a men dressed as a woman” on them. He also noted an evangelical pastor told Hondurans not to vote for gay men and lesbians because “we corrupt God’s models.”

Martínez told the Blade he compared them to “delinquents, murderers and rapists.”

Martínez and the three other candidates brought a formal complaint against the pastor. A panel of judges said his actions did not constitute discrimination, but they promoted hate and violated Honduras’ election laws that prohibit “churches from becoming involved in political issues.”

“We wanted to confront this part immediately,” said Martínez.

Martínez told the Blade he is confident that he will garner more support this year than he did in 2013.

LIBRE last year named him the party’s interim secretary for LGBT-specific issues. It formally nominated him to permanently hold the position last month.

“We are working with a focus on human rights,” he said.

Martínez added his campaign is also promoting LGBT Hondurans’ right to participate in the country’s political process and the idea that “we will be citizens and we will obtain a populous electoral role, take advantage of spaces and speak about situations of vulnerability of different populations — gays, lesbians, trans people.”

“This helped us with a human rights agenda,” he said.


‘We in Honduras very much look to’ the U.S.

Martínez was among those who helped organize a 2015 conference in Tegucigalpa that the Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute co-organized with the support of the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.N. Program on HIV/AIDS and other groups. He also attended a Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute gathering that took place in D.C. a month after President Trump defeated former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Martínez told the Blade he “recognizes” that former President Obama implemented initiatives that promoted the human rights of LGBT people and other vulnerable communities around the world. He said he expected Clinton would have allowed these policies to remain in place if she were president.

“We in Honduras very much look to the American world for that ratification of rights,” said Martínez.

Trump on Jan. 25 signed an executive order that spurs construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border that he maintains will stop the flow of undocumented immigrants and drugs into the country from Central America. A second executive order that he signed on the same day paves the way for cutting federal funding to so-called “sanctuary cities” in which undocumented immigrants are protected.

Trump on Jan. 27 signed an executive order that bans refugees from entering the U.S. for four months and suspends the issuance of visas to people from seven predominantly Muslim countries for 90 days. A federal appeals court on Thursday refused to reinstate the travel ban.

Martínez acknowledged to the Blade that Trump’s immigration policies could have an impact in Honduras because remittances from the U.S. bolster the country’s economy. He stressed, however, the wall will have a more direct impact in Mexico as opposed to countries in the Northern Triangle that include Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

“Our people are going,” said Martínez. “Mexico is a transit country.”

Martínez acknowledged some Americans support Trump because of a lack of economic opportunities for them and for their families. He also acknowledged the growing resistance to the new president within the U.S.

“The abrupt tone that he uses in his speeches and his pronouncements is without a doubt creating a lot of conflict across the country,” said Martínez.


- Michael K. Lavers, Washington Blade courtesy of the National LGBTQ Media Association