February 1, 2017 at 11:40 am EST | by Michael K. Lavers
First LGBT member of Guatemala Congress criticizes Trump

Sandra Morán, the first openly LGBT person elected to the Guatemalan Congress, speaks with the Washington Blade at her Guatemala City office on Jan. 31, 2017. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Sandra Morán, the first openly LGBT person elected to the Guatemalan Congress, speaks with the Washington Blade at her Guatemala City office on Jan. 31, 2017. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

GUATEMALA CITY — The first openly LGBT person elected to the Guatemalan Congress on Tuesday sharply criticized President Trump.

Congresswoman Sandra Morán told the Washington Blade during an interview at her office in Guatemala City that Trump is “everything” in response to a question about whether she thinks he is racist or xenophobic. Morán also said “groups that have a long history of violent racism that literally feel empowered again” by Trump “saddens me.”

“This racism has taken lives,” Morán told the Blade.

Morán spoke with the Blade six days after Trump signed two executive orders that spur construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and call for cutting federal funding to so-called “sanctuary cities” in which undocumented immigrants are protected.

Statistics indicate that 2.1 million Guatemalans — including 80,000 in Maryland — currently live in the U.S. The Migration Policy Institute notes the U.S. deported 478,000 Guatemalan, Salvadoran and Honduran migrants from 2010-2014.

“We have received a lot of deported migrants,” Morán told the Blade.

She said there is a lot of “uncertainly” in Guatemala about the wall and whether it will divide families.

“It is chaos,” said Morán. “The reality is that he (Trump) is creating chaos in people’s lives and in the community.”

Morán told the Blade the wall would cause more violence and “repressive acts” from the police and other law enforcement officials. She also stressed it will do nothing to stop the flow of drugs into the U.S. from Mexico and Central America.

“This chaos is who is yes, who is no,” said Morán. “The other thing is it instills fear; it instills fear in everyone.”

Morán also told the Blade that Trump has concentrated “negative energy of destruction, of violence, of tension.” She said the millions of people who have protested against him since his Jan. 20 inauguration have countered this rhetoric.

“Look at the large protests of thousands of people — women, men, children, young people, old people,” said Morán. “This is a force of positive energy. They are not killing each other. They are not hitting each other. They are dancing and playing music, writing poems. This is the positive energy of construction.”

Morán was among the elected officials and candidates from around the world who attended the Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute’s International LGBT Leaders Conference that took place in D.C. a month after Trump’s election.

“Nobody expected it,” said Morán, recalling how conference attendees felt about the election results. “I think there was a lot of confidence that Hillary was going to win.”

Morán told the Blade that Trump’s election “obviously caused depression, frustration and fear.” She said she also saw that LGBT Americans were not only worried about their “personal security, but were afraid of losing” the rights they gained during former President Obama’s administration.

The Human Rights Campaign and other LGBT advocacy groups were quick to announce their opposition to the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court, which Trump announced less than an hour after the Blade interviewed Morán. The White House earlier on Tuesday said Trump would allow Obama’s 2014 executive order that bans federal contractors from discriminating against their LGBT employees to remain in place.

Morán recalled a speech that Victory Institute President Aisha Moodie-Mills gave during the D.C. conference.

She told the Blade that Moodie-Mills spoke about the need to “prepare ourselves and get ready to fight.” Morán said her comments about participants having the necessary “conditions” and “capacities” to continue the fight for LGBT and intersex rights in spite of the incoming administration particularly resonated with her.

“As we know in Guatemala, the only way that we won all that we have is through fights,” said Morán. “Nobody gave us anything.”

Morán receives death threats, ‘violent’ messages

Morán is a member of Convergencia, a left-leaning political movement that advocates on behalf of indigenous Guatemalans and other underrepresented groups in the Central American country that borders Mexico, Belize, El Salvador and Honduras.

Voters in Guatemala City elected Morán in September 2015. She and 157 other members of the Guatemalan Congress were sworn in on Jan. 14, 2016.

Morán in 1981 sought exile in Mexico amid Guatemala’s civil war. She lived in Nicaragua and Canada before returning to the country in 1994.

Morán over the last two decades has become a prominent figure within the Guatemalan women’s and feminist movements. She has also emerged as a champion of LGBT and intersex issues in the country.

“My public identity has opened the door,” Morán told the Blade.

“They feel represented,” she added, referring to LGBT and intersex Guatemalans. “This is very important.”

Morán told the Blade the inclusion of LGBT and intersex Guatemalans in the Congress’ Human Rights Commission is among her legislative accomplishments. She also works on issues that relate to health, education, political participation, indigenous Guatemalans, women and young people.

She said her colleagues “have respect for her.”

Morán told the Blade she has nevertheless received death threats and “all sorts of terrible, violent” messages on Facebook from people who are not in Congress. She also highlighted the need to prevent violence against LGBT and intersex Guatemalans, workers, women and children.

“Unfortunately we have a life full of different forms of violence,” said Morán.

Graffiti near the Guatemalan Congresswoman Sandra Morán's office in Guatemala City calls for safe and legal abortion and declares October 13 the Day of the Lesbian Rebellion. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Graffiti near the Guatemalan Congresswoman Sandra Morán’s office in Guatemala City calls for safe and legal abortion and declares October 13 the Day of the Lesbian Rebellion. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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