October 6, 2018 at 8:00 am EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Victory Institute organizes workshops in Central America

The Victory Institute is holding a series of workshops in Central America that are designed to bolster the LGBTI community’s involvement in the region’s political process. The first workshop took place in Santa Lucía, Honduras, from Sept. 28-30, 2018. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

SANTA LUCÍA, Honduras — The LGBTQ Victory Institute is holding a series of workshops in Central America that are designed to bolster the LGBTI community’s involvement in the region’s political process.

Nicaraguans who are participating in protests against their country’s government were among the 28 people who attended the first workshop that took place outside the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa from Sept. 28-30.

A second workshop that will focus on government institutions, policy and public speaking will take place in Guatemala City on Oct. 26-28. Two additional workshops on running a campaign, ensuring personal safety and bolstering LGBTI participation in the political process are scheduled to take place in Honduras and Guatemala next month and in January

The workshops are part of the LGBTI Political Leadership Academy in Central America.

Participants are from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua. SOMOS CDC, Asociación Lambda and Caribe Afirmativo — three LGBTI advocacy groups from Honduras, Guatemala and Colombia respectively — organized the workshops alongside the Victory Institute.

“More and more LGBTQ leaders are stepping up and running for office in Honduras and throughout Central America — and our LGBTI Political Leadership Academy aims to provide them with the tools, skills and networks necessary to win,” Victory Institute Vice President Ruben Gonzales told the Washington Blade in a statement. “In the last few years, our participants and partners in Honduras and the region have become increasingly bold and strategic, taking advantage of opportunities to pursue careers in public service and transform political parties from the inside.”

Discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity remain pervasive throughout Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. Reports indicate more than 500 people have been killed in Nicaragua since protests against the government of President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, began on April 18.

A number of openly LGBTI people have nevertheless ran for public office in the region in spite of the aforementioned threats.

Sandra Morán, who is openly lesbian, is the first out LGBTI person elected to Guatemala’s Congress. She was sworn in on Jan. 14, 2016.

Erick Martínez was one of four openly LGBTI candidates who unsuccessfully ran for a seat in Honduras’ Congress in 2012. Claudia Spellman and Victoria Gómez — two openly transgender women who were also congressional candidates in 2012 — were either threatened or attacked and now live outside Honduras.

Martínez once again ran for the Honduras’ Congress in 2017, but he lost.

Kendra Stefani Jordany in March 2017 became the first openly trans person to ever win a primary in Honduras when she was among the Central American Parliament candidates who advanced to the country’s general election that took place last November. Jordany and Rihanna Ferrera, another openly trans woman who was running for a seat in Honduras’ Congress, ultimately lost their respective races.

Sandra Morán is the first openly LGBTI person elected to Guatemala’s Congress. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Alex Peña, an openly trans man from El Salvador who was attacked by police officers in 2015, ran for the San Salvador Municipal Council earlier this year. Peña did not win, but he told the Blade during an interview in the Salvadoran capital after the March 4 election that “it is a right that we have to be part of this.”

“Growing LGBTI political participation is key to securing equality in Central America, and the leaders that attend our academy are at the forefront of making this a reality,” said Gonzales.

Activists in Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Peru and other countries have also worked with the Victory Institute to bolster the LGBTI community’s involvement in the political process. The Victory Institute’s annual International LGBTQ Leaders Conference takes place in D.C. in December.

Alex Peña is a transgender man who was a candidate seat in the San Salvador Municipal Council in 2018. (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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