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‘I will not leave my country’

David Valle of the Center for LGBTI Development and Cooperation, a Honduran LGBT advocacy group known by the acronym Somos-CDC, sits at his desk in his office in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, on Sept. 20, 2017. A man brutally attacked Valle inside his home in the Honduran capital in July. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — A prominent Honduran LGBT and intersex rights activist who was brutally attacked inside his home in July says he plans to remain in the country.

“I have had many opportunities and many invitations to leave the country, but that is not my aspiration,” David Valle, director of human rights and LGBT and intersex programs at the Center for LGBTI Development and Cooperation, an advocacy group known by the acronym SOMOS-CDC, told the Washington Blade on Wednesday during an interview at his office in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa. “I will not leave my country, knowing there are still many things to do for the community.”

“We can be in a strange country where the situation can be much better for the LGTB community, but still thinking about my country, friends, relatives,” he added. “I am not going to get out of here. I will stay here. We are going to stay here.”

Attacker ‘never said anything’

Valle told the Blade he had just arrived to the Tegucigalpa house in which he lived with his roommate at around 10 p.m. on July 10 when a man rang the doorbell.

“I asked who is it, but I did not get an answer,” said Valle.

He noted he lives in a “very safe area” and he was not concerned because of “the confidence that absolutely nothing had happened over the many years he was there.” Valle also told the Blade he thought the man who had rung the doorbell was his roommate.

Valle said he opened the door and the man pushed it towards him, grabbed him and slammed his head into a wall.

Valle told the Blade he fell to the floor and tried to crawl away from the man before he tried to use a knife to stab him. Valle said the man broke a bottle and used a piece of it to cut his neck and fingers.

Valle became emotional as he showed the Blade the scars on his neck and fingers that remain visible.

“He never said anything,” Valle told the Blade.

Valle said the man only took his car and house keys when he left roughly 10 minutes after the attack began. Valle told the Blade his television, computer and cell phone were in “plain sight.”

“He was one person and he didn’t say anything,” said Valle. “He did not take anything.”

Personnel at the Honduran Institute of Social Security — a government agency that provides health care — treated Valle before his roommate brought him to a private hospital.

“I saw the apartment,” he told the Blade. “It was totally covered in blood, destroyed. I lost control.”

Valle was discharged from the private hospital three days later. He told the Blade he spent three weeks in a safe house outside of Tegucigalpa.

Honduran activists face increased threats ahead of elections

Valle in 2012 was a candidate for the Honduran Congress for the leftist Democratic Unification Party. He is running again in the country’s general elections that are scheduled to take place on Nov. 26.

Valle has participated in Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute-sponsored meetings and conferences in Honduras, the U.S. and the Dominican Republic. SOMOS-CDC has also received funding from a European Union program that seeks to bolster Honduras’ judicial system and improve access to it.

Valle was scheduled to attend a U.S. Agency for International Aid-organized meeting of Honduran LGBT and intersex rights advocates in the city of San Pedro Sula that took place days after he was attacked.

The Center for LGBTI Development and Cooperation is a Honduran LGBT advocacy group known by the acronym SOMOS-CDC. It’s offices are located in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Violence against LGBT and intersex and human rights advocates remains commonplace in Honduras, which has one of the world’s highest per capita murder rates. Statistics from advocacy groups indicate more than 200 LGBT and intersex Hondurans have been reported killed in the country since the 2009 coup that toppled then-President Manuel Zelaya.

The body of Sherlyn Montoya, a volunteer for Grupo de Mujeres Transexuales (Muñecas Arcoíris), a transgender advocacy group, was found a Tegucigalpa neighborhood on April 4. René Martínez, a prominent activist from San Pedro Sula who was a member of President Juan Orlando Hernández’s ruling National Party, was strangled to death in June 2016.

Valle and SOMOS-CDC Executive Director Alex Sorto in April petitioned authorities to provide them with protection because they had received threats.

Valle told the Blade his colleagues accused police officers of torture and “practically kidnapping my colleagues.” He said they were planning to bring a formal complaint against them, but authorities told them a week before he was attacked that his colleague had to go to the Honduran Public Ministry in person to file it.

The man who attacked Valle has not been arrested. Valle told the Blade that authorities waited two months to take a statement about the attack from his roommate.

“We can at least discard violence and general insecurity that exists here as motives behind the attack,” said Valle.

The man attacked Valle ahead of Honduras’ general elections that are scheduled to take place on Nov. 26.

Valle told the Blade that Hernández’s reelection “is guaranteed.” He also said the situation for Honduran human rights advocates “always gets worse” ahead of elections.

“One of the mechanisms that those who seek elected office in Honduras always use is attacking the LGTB community to win the votes of other much larger sectors,” said Valle. “They then attack the LGTB community during election season. Elections are a tool that politicians always use.”

Valle mocks Honduran president’s U.N. speech

Valle spoke with the Blade a day after Hernández referenced human rights in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly. Valle was quick to mock Hernández over his assertion his government is “committed to the defense and promotion of human rights.”

“It’s bullshit,” Valle told the Blade. “He is speaking about human rights, but for who? For people who have money? Millionaires? Religious people? But he does not speak . . . about the groups that we represent. He doesn’t speak about the LGTB community. He doesn’t speak about women.”

“To the contrary,” he added.