Honduras’ LGBT community is participating in nationwide demonstrations on Wednesday commemorating the eighth anniversary of the 2009 U.S.-backed military coup that ousted former leftist President Manuel Zelaya.
Erick Vidal Martinez Salgado, one of many social leaders organizing the protests, said his goal is to bring visibility to the LGBT community within the broader Honduran resistance movement against the coup. He is an activist with the Movement for Diversity in Resistance, serves as the secretary of sexual diversity for the Liberty and Refoundation Party, LIBRE, and is the LGBT coordinator for the National Popular Resistance Front, FNRP.
The LGBT community and the Honduran resistance movement, according to Martinez, are leading one struggle for justice.
“Human rights defenders are at high risk in Honduras and more vulnerability is added when they identify as LGBT,” Martinez told teleSUR in a recent interview.
“But the resistance has protected and stood alongside LGBT people against social oppressions perpetrated by the coup.”
The LGBT community in Honduras was hit particularly hard by the right-wing ousting, which ushered in unprecedented levels of hate crimes. At least 215 LGBT people, mainly activists, have been killed since Zelaya was removed from power, The Guardian reported.
Between 1989 and 2009, there were only 20 reported cases of murders of LGBT people, according to Martinez. In the first six months after the coup — June to December 2009 — there were already 26 reported murders.
It gets worse.
A 2015 study conducted by the Trans Murder Monitoring project revealed that Honduras had the world’s highest rate of transgender murders relative to its population. Their finding was based on crime statistics collected between 2008 and 2014.
Moreover, a 2015 Inter-American Commission on Human Rights report found that LGBT murders are more likely go unpunished in Honduras under the incumbent right-wing government.
It is for these reasons, according to Martinez, that LGBT Hondurans have filled leading ranks within LIBRE and the FNRP.
“Our LGBT comrades have strengthened the resistance by approaching and uniting oppressed groups that have not worked together historically,” Martinez said.
“Our progressive movement is based on advancing human rights for all people.”
Among the most notable LGBT activists within the resistance movement was Alexander Erick Martinez Avila (not to be confused with Erick Vidal Martinez Salgado), who was strangled to death in Tegucigalpa in May 2012.
Alexander, a close friend of Martinez, was killed days after he announced his LIBRE congressional candidacy ahead of the 2013 elections.
Alexander was also an FNRP militant who organized daily protests against the coup. Martinez said 2012 was his “most difficult year” as a LGBT resistance activist given Alexander’s death.
Walter Trochez, another well-known Honduran LGBT resistance activist with ties to Martinez, was shot dead on Dec. 13, 2009 in Tegucigalpa. A week earlier, Trochez was temporarily kidnapped by four masked men who reportedly beat and tortured him because of his involvement in the resistance movement.
Alexander and Trochez are two of many LGBT activists who will be honored by LIBRE and the FNRP on Wednesday.
In the weeks following the commemoration of the coup and LGBT Pride Month, Martinez will be busy working with LIBRE to help promote an opposition electoral alliance ahead of the upcoming November election. The alliance — composed of LIBRE, the Anti-Corruption Party and the Innovation and Unity Party — is set on defeating the ruling National Party government of President Juan Orlando Hernandez.
The right-wing National Party has ruled Honduras since January 2010, just a few months after the coup.
“The opposition alliance provides hope for the country, the resistance and the LGBT community” Martinez said.
“For us, it is a progressive mechanism that can leverage LGBT agendas in Honduras. It is also an instrument for overthrowing the dictatorship imposed by the National Party regime.”
Martinez is 38 years old and identifies as a gay man.