His coffin is covered with the flag of the transgender cause, with blue, pink and white stripes. On a piece of paper, we see his portrait, drawn by one of his relatives. She is represented standing there, joyful, surrounded by the words “Thank you for your struggle, comrade!” On Monday, June 14, Andrea Gonzalez, a 28-year-old transgender woman and leader of Otrans, one of Guatemala’s leading transgender rights groups, was buried by her relatives in Guatemala City. She had been shot dead three days earlier in the historic center of the capital of this Central American country.
In Guatemala, crimes against LGBT people have increased dramatically since the beginning of June, “pride month” around the world. Barely two days before the assassination of Mme Gonzalez, another member of Otrans, Cecy Ixpata, had also succumbed to injuries inflicted on her. On June 14, José Manuel Villeda, a 22-year-old gay man, was also found dead in Morales, in the east of the country.
This series of assassinations alerted Human Rights Watch. According to the human rights organization, citing local sources, these three murders bring the number of LGBT people killed in Guatemala to 13 in the first six months of 2021. Over the whole of 2020, The Guatemalan Human Rights Observatory had identified 19. This chronic insecurity makes the country one of the most dangerous places in Latin America for sexual minorities.
A “dangerous political situation”
With each murder, the country’s LGBT community can count on the support of NGOs and international organizations. When the assassination of Andrea Gonzalez was made public on the night of Friday June 11 to Saturday June 12, the RedLacTrans network, which brings together transgender collectives from twenty-three Latin American countries and of which Mr.me Gonzalez, celebrated on Twitter the memory of a woman « combative », and a “Indisputable leader” killed “By the bullets of hatred, patriarchy and the absence of the State”. Several embassies of foreign countries established in Guatemala also expressed their feelings, including that of the United States, which recalled the activist’s involvement with the American Agency for International Development (Usaid).
On the spot, however, LGBT rights organizations seem to be alone in the face of the violence. “We are facing a negative and dangerous political situation”, asserts Stacy Velasquez, executive director of Otrans, the collective bereaved by the loss of two activists. Since taking office in January 2020, Conservative President Alejandro Giammattei, whom Mr.me Velasquez qualifies as “evangelical” because of his proximity to religious circles, refuses any progress in terms of LGBT rights. During the campaign that brought him to power, he spoke out against same-sex marriage. Of all the state institutions, only the office of the defender of rights, financed by the Parliament, takes into account the demands of the movement and is moved by the violence suffered by sexual minorities. This support has earned the rights defender pressure and funding cuts.
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