(WB) A transgender man who was attacked by police officers in 2015 was among the candidates who ran in El Salvador’s national elections that took place on Sunday.

Alex Peña, a volunteer with Generación de Hombres Trans de El Salvador, was a candidate for the San Salvador Municipal Council for the left-wing Social Democratic Party. Peña did not win, but he told the Washington Blade on Monday during an interview at Generación de Hombres Trans de El Salvador’s offices in the Salvadoran capital of San Salvador that it was “a right” to run for office.

“As a citizen, as a person, as a Salvadoran, it is a right that we have to be part of this,” he said, referring to the country’s political process.

Sunday’s elections were for the country’s municipal councils, mayors and National Assembly.

The right-wing opposition Republican Nationalist Alliance (ARENA) party appears to have soundly defeated President Salvador Sánchez Cerén’s left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) party. Salvadoran election results have yet to announce the official results.

The election to succeed Cerén will take place in 2019.

Peña’s colleague, Bryam Rodríguez, pointed out to the Blade there were two other trans candidates who ran in the elections. Rodríguez noted Peña is the only one of them who publicly discussed their gender identity.
“It is my right to become part of the Municipal Council,” Peña told the Blade.


El Salvador is one of the world’s most violent countries

A group of more than a dozen police officers attacked Peña on June 27, 2015, after he attended a Pride march in San Salvador.

The attack took place after Peña had a confrontation with a bus driver.

The officers who Peña said attacked him broke his eye socket and fractured his skull. Andrea Ayala, executive director of Espacio de Mujeres Lesbianas por la Diversidad, another Salvadoran advocacy group, told the Blade a few weeks later during an interview in D.C. the officers also broke Peña’s partner’s shoulder during the incident.

“[The attacks] were motivated exclusively by the hate that these police officers had against Alex because he is a trans man,” Ayala told the Blade.

El Salvador, which borders Honduras and Guatemala, has one of the world’s highest per capita murder rates.

Violence against trans Salvadorans because of their gender identity remains commonplace.

Salvadoran lawmakers in 2015 approved an amendment to the country’s legal code that enhances penalties for hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Peña, Ayala and other LGBT rights advocates with whom the Blade has spoken maintain Salvadoran authorities are reluctant to use the statute to prosecute these cases and have generally not done enough to prevent violence and discrimination.

Three of the officers who attacked Peña were convicted and sentenced to prison. Peña told the Blade the outcome of his case would have been different if he and other advocates did not publicize it.

“If (Hombres Trans) de El Salvador was not with me or I wasn’t a volunteer for them, perhaps I would not be telling you about it,” he said.


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