Guatemala’s LGBTQ + community is in mourning after two transgender women and a gay man were killed in less than a week during pride month.
Andrea González, a prominent activist and leader of the transgender women’s organization Otrans Reinas de la Noche (Queens of the Night) was shot and killed on June 11 on the street near her home in Guatemala City. His murder followed the murder of another Otrans member, Cecy Ixpatá, who was assaulted and died of her injuries on June 9 at a hospital in Salamá, about 50 miles north of Guatemala City. José Manuel Vargas Villeda, a 22-year-old gay man what Shot and killed on June 14 in Morales, 150 miles northeast of the capital.
“It sends a message of terror and fear to the entire LGBTQ + community throughout the country,” said Henry Spain, from the Defensoría del Pueblo, an autonomous state institution.
“It should be a month of celebration but it ends up being a month of mourning,” he said.
The killings bring the total number of LGBTQ + people killed this year to 13, compared to 19 in all of 2020. In the absence of reliable government tracking, a network of LGBTQ + groups established a national observatory to record the killings.
Pandemic restrictions limited attendance at González’s wake and burial on Sunday, and only his closest family members, friends and colleagues were present.
“She was someone who was filled with a strong conviction,” said Spain, a friend of González’s through her years of working for LGBTQ + rights. “She was very funny. She always made you laugh. “
González, 28, grew up in Guatemala City and later studied nursing. She joined Otrans in 2013 as a community health promoter, worked as a nurse at the group’s trans women’s health clinic, which was the organization’s executive director, and eventually became its legal representative.
“That allowed her to participate in spaces at the national level … and also at the international level, always working to defend the human rights of trans women,” said Aura Rodríguez, communication coordinator for Otrans.
“The human rights of trans people are violated every day,” he said. “The murders reveal how a State that does not ensure the recognition of gender identity can not only violate rights every day due to the lack of conditions of access to health, education, work and security, but also does not protect people. its citizens “.
Aldo Dávila, a longtime LGBTQ + activist and the first openly gay man in Guatemala’s congress, doesn’t think it is a coincidence that the onslaught of killings occurred during pride month.
“It is really worrying. There has been an escalation of violence [against LGBTQ+ people]”He told The Guardian.
For Dávila, violence is linked to homophobic and transphobic discourse, even by public officials, but it also reflects broader discrimination and violence against other marginalized groups, including indigenous people and women.
“There is persecution and criminalization of human rights defenders,” he said. “In Guatemala we are experiencing a democratic setback that we have not seen since the 1980s.”
In Guatemala there are no legal protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Proposed LGBTQ + rights bills have been stepped up in Congressional committees before they can be put to a vote.
“The speech has a lot to do with it,” Dávila said of the violence he and other LGBTQ + people face.
Threats, assaults and discrimination are the crimes most reported by LGBTQ + people in Guatemala and the Public Ministry receives approximately 150 criminal complaints a year, Spain said. The Public Ministry and the National Institute of Forensic Sciences now have designations for LGBTQ + victims of violence and murder, but their use has been erratic.
“It is very difficult to have exact numbers,” said Yahir Zavaleta, the Mexico City coordinator of Diversxs, an Amnesty International LGBTQ + rights project.
While some Latin American countries such as Mexico, Brazil and Argentina have standardized procedures and more reliable official statistics on killings and violence against LGBTQ + people, Guatemala and many other countries do not, he said.
Guatemala’s LGBTQ + movement canceled this year’s gay pride march due to the increase in Covid-19 cases. The country’s vaccination rate is one of the lowest in the Americas and many public hospitals are under pressure.
Otrans has been calling on the state to create conditions that allow LGBTQ + people to lead dignified lives and to pass a comprehensive trans rights law. The group is also calling for unity within the LGBTQ + community.
“These murders are not going to stop, unfortunately,” said Rodríguez, “in a state that shows hatred towards its population.”