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Fallece la primera persona trans electa para un cargo público en América Latina

Alejandra González era concejala en Chile

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Alejandra González (Foto cortesía de Movilh)

Originaria de Batuco, Chile, Alejandra González, 54, sobresalió por ser la primera mujer trans elegida para un cargo público, no solo en su país, sino en América Latina. La concejala fue encontrada el 5 de octubre en su domicilio sin vida, a consecuencia de una falla cardiaca.

“Alejandra abrió los cargos de elección a la población LGBTIQ+ en Chile y en América Latina y con su ejemplo enseñó a muchos y muchas a luchar por la plena igualdad de derechos. Estamos tristes con su partida”, señaló Rolando Jiménez, dirigente de Movilh.

Fungió como una política destacada y luego de enfrentarse a la transfobia en repetidas ocasiones fue en diciembre de 2017 que la Corte Suprema aplicó a su favor la Ley Zamudio, organismo encargado del imperio del derecho para no cometer discriminaciones arbitrarias, dado a que en repetidas ocasiones se irrespetó su nombre y sexo social.

González fue electa como concejal de Lampa por tres periodos consecutivos, posicionándose en el cargo desde 2004 al 2012. De igual manera, la chilena se convirtió en la primera alcaldesa subrogante trans del país en 2012 cuando Graciela Ortúzr dejó su puesto para hacer campaña.

“Perdimos a una gran mujer, a una gran activista, a una luchadora incansable, de esas que dieron la pelea contra viento y marea y en contextos ciudadanos casi totalmente transfobicos. Alejandra queda para siempre en la memoria de nuestras luchas. Su legado es histórico y único”, señaló Jimenez.

Su carrera política dio inicio luego de ser presidenta de una junta de vecinos en Lampa en 1995, administrar un circo de transformistas y tener su propia peluquería.

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Latin America

Latin America elections present challenges, opportunities for LGBTQ community

Voters in Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Venezuela to go to polls this year

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Richelle Briceño was a candidate for the Venezuelan National Assembly in the country's last elections. (Photo courtesy of Richelle Briceño)

Activists throughout the region agree the elections offer a crucial opportunity to advance the inclusion and protection of the rights of their community amid far-right advances.

Venezuela’s presidential election will take place on July 28, while Brazil’s municipal elections will happen on Oct. 6. Regional and municipal elections will take place in Chile on Oct. 27. Uruguay’s congressional elections are slated to occur on the same day.

María José Cumplido, executive director of Fundación Iguales in Chile, emphasized the importance of having LGBTQ representation in politics. 

“It is fundamental because LGBTQ+ people tend to support laws or public policies aimed at protecting the community,” Cumplido told the Washington Blade. “In that sense, it is important that the voices of these people are heard because, obviously, they know the reality more closely and many times they have lived it.” 

Cumplido noted “LGBTQ+ representation has grown notoriously in recent years, so much so that today there is an LGBTQ+ caucus in Congress.” 

“That is good news,” said Cumplido.

Ignacia Oyarzún, president of Organizado Trans Diversidades (Organizing Trans Diversities or OTD), also from Chile, highlighted the observation and registration work the Trans Voting Observatory of Latin America and the Caribbean has done. Oyarzún also noted the promotion of transgender candidates as a way to combat misinformation a promote respect for the community’s political rights.

“We monitor the situation of the political rights of our communities in the region and establish guidelines through which we encourage respect for the right to elect representatives and to be elected,” said Oyarzún. “We also maintain initiatives that have to do with the dissemination of trans candidacies and news that go against the disinformation established through false news that have begun to circulate through the various social and political media.”

Collette Spinetti, president of the Colectivo Trans del Uruguay, pointed out the challenges faced by LGBTQ people in politics, especially trans people.

“The biggest challenge is to achieve trustworthiness especially towards gender-dissident people in their ability to be able to hold public office,” said Spinetti.

Professor Collete Spinetti has dedicated many years of her life to improving living conditions for LGBTQ people in Uruguay (Photo courtesy of Collete Spinetti)

“In Uruguay politics is still quite macho, especially in the so-called traditional and right-wing parties where there is no political representation of members of the LGBTIQ+ community,” Spinetti further explained. “On the left, although there is, thanks to internal work, female representation, there is still a lack of work.”

“In this sense the scarce LGBTIQ+ representation is present through gay men,” added Spinetti. “There is still no representation of publicly lesbian people and only one representation in the interior of the country of a trans woman.” 

In Brazil, Keila Simpson, president of Associaçao Nacional de Travestis e Transexuais (National Association of Travestis and Transsexuals or ANTRA), highlighted the diversity of LGBTQ representation in the country’s politics. Simpson nevertheless recognized the importance of mandates that go beyond identity and address a wide range of issues that benefit the entire community.

“The challenges for LGBTQIA people when it comes to applying for positions in Brazil are many,” she said. “The first one is the way Brazilian society sees this stigmatized and completely stereotyped population. If we think about the trans population, this violence is even greater, since in addition to being smaller in number, the discrimination is even greater because this population is commonly associated with eroticism and hypersexualization of their bodies, and these are the main problems these people face. they are associated when they run for prominent positions or leaders, even in the partisan political arena.” 

Associaçao Nacional de Travestis e Transexuais (ANTRA) President Keila Simpson at her office in Salvador, Brazil, on March 16, 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

In Venezuela, Richelle Briceño, a trans woman and former congressional candidate, on the other hand, lamented the lack of presidential candidacies that explicitly defend LGBTQ rights. She noted the country still faces fundamental challenges that prevent a serious debate on these issues.

“There are candidates who have expressed themselves against non-discrimination, but that’s as far as it goes,” Briceño recounted. “There are no specific candidates that I can tell you who even handle what the definition of the word queer is and how it is understood, let’s say, within LGBTQ+ activism.”

Briceño said María Corina Machado, an opposition leader who President Nicolás Maduro’s government has barred from running for office, has “come out in favor of issues such as equal civil marriage and the issue of recognition of trans identities.” Briceño noted to the Blade that Edmundo González Urrutia, who is running as her surrogate, did not meet with LGBTQ activists until last week.

“These activists exposed their points of view, however, the current candidate leading the polls has not made a public statement regarding his position or what his position will be on the issues of LGBT rights in Venezuela,” said Briceño.

Briceño further stressed that Venezuela “is still in a cave.” 

“Here the country is in the basics, the country is in not losing electricity, in having water and in seeing how people eat daily,” she said. “The political and economic crisis that we have lived through for two decades, and with more depth in the last decade, has not allowed for a serious debate on the issues of the 21st century, including the rights of sexual diversity populations or the LGBT population and women”.

José Rodríguez, a Venezuelan psychologist who, like many of his compatriots had to leave his country, said that “as a young Venezuelan exiled in Chile for eight years, today I feel the tranquility of living in a society where a governmental interest in the welfare of my community is appreciated, expressed by a legal framework that although it could be better; compared to the overwhelming setbacks that have occurred in recent weeks in neighboring countries and the constant lethargy of Venezuela in terms of advancing the LGBTQIA+ agenda, is deeply painful and worrying.”

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Caribbean

Gilead Sciences awards grants to HIV/AIDS groups in Latin America, Caribbean

Stigma, criminalization laws among barriers to fighting pandemic in region

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Free condoms in a São Paulo Metro station. Gilead Sciences has announced it has given grants to 35 organizations in Latin America and the Caribbean. The groups will use the funds to fight HIV/AIDS in the region. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Gilead Sciences this week announced it has given $4 million in grants to 35 organizations in Latin America and the Caribbean that fight HIV/AIDS.

A press release notes Asociación Panamericana de Mercadeo Social (Pan-American Association of Social Marketing) in Nicaragua, Fundación Genesis (Genesis Foundation) in Panama, Fundación por una Sociedad Empoderada (Foundation for an Empowered Society) in Argentina, Associação Nacional de Travestis e Transexuais (National Association of Travestis and Transsexuals) in Brazil and Caribbean Vulnerable Communities are among the groups that received grants. Gilead notes this funding through its Zeroing In: Ending the HIV Epidemic in Latin America and the Caribbean will “improve access to care, increase health equity and reduce HIV-related stigma for populations most affected by HIV.”

“The HIV prevention and care needs of people throughout Latin America and the Caribbean are incredibly diverse, and each of these programs addresses a unique community challenge,” said Gilead Vice President of Corporate Giving Carmen Villar. “Our grantees are deeply embedded in their communities and best positioned to provide needed HIV care and support services.” 

“Their expertise will be essential to achieve the Zeroing In program’s goals of improving access to comprehensive care among priority populations, decreasing HIV-related stigma and reducing HIV and broader health inequities,” she added.

The pandemic disproportionately affects transgender people and sex workers, among other groups, in the region. Activists and HIV/AIDS service providers in the region with whom the Washington Blade has previously spoken say discrimination, stigma, poverty, a lack of access to health care and criminalization laws are among the myriad challenges they face.

First Lady Jill Biden in 2022 during a trip to Panama announced the U.S. will provide an additional $80.9 million in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Latin America through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. 

Cuba in 2015 became the first country in the world to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The Cuban government until 1993 forcibly quarantined people with HIV/AIDS in state-run sanitaria.

Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago in recent years have decriminalized consensual same-sex sexual relations. 

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2021 ruled Jamaica must repeal its colonial-era sodomy law. The country’s Supreme Court last year ruled against a gay man who challenged it.  

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Latin America

Violence against LGBTQ Ecuadorians increases amid ‘internal armed conflict’

Government has declared war against drug cartels

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Ecuador's Presidential Palace in Quito, Ecuador, in 2018 (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The current crisis in Ecuador has exacerbated the vulnerability of the LGBTQ community, which was already facing high levels of violence and discrimination. 

A report that Runa Sipiy published notes 27 LGBTQ people were reported murdered in the country in 2023, and government authorities did not adequately respond to them. This situation has intensified during the armed conflict in the country.

Two LGBTQ people have already been reported killed in 2024. Diane Rodríguez, national director of the Ecuadorian Federation of LGBTI Organizations, described the Ecuadorian government’s measures in response of ensuring LGBTQ people remain safe as insufficient and inattentive.

Ecuador in 2019 extended marriage rights to same-sex couples. They can also adopt children, while transgender people can change their legal documentation. The country’s constitution includes sexual orientation and gender identity within the protected categories against discrimination.

Challenges nevertheless persist: Awareness and full implementation of laws and the continued need for efforts to ensure Ecuadorian society is more respectful of sexual and gender diversity.

Rodríguez told the Washington Blade “the current security crisis in Ecuador has had a direct impact on the LGBTQ community.”

“LGBTQ people were already more prone to violence and discrimination before the crisis, and this situation has worsened even more in recent months,” she said.

The activist added that “we believed that, with the new government of Daniel Noboa, things would improve, but we are finding that they will not, since his own human rights institutions, such as the Ministry of Women and Human Rights, omit our situation or hold cosmetic LGBT+ meetings, in the manner of pinkwashing of the current government.”

Diane Rodríguez (Photo courtesy of Diane Rodríguez)

According to Asociación Silueta X, an organization that works for the rights of LGBTQ people in Ecuador, an increase in incidents of violence and discrimination towards LGBTQ people has been observed during this period of crisis. These incidents include physical attacks, verbal harassment and discrimination in accessing public services. 

“This week, for example, Beba was murdered on the afternoon of Jan. 8, 2024, shot in her native Pueblo Viejo, Los Rios province in Ecuador, in the context of the ‘internal armed conflict’ of the country and the state of emergency declared by the president of the republic,” said Rodríguez. “So far, no government department has spoken out about these trans murders, much less the Undersecretary of Diversities or the Ministry of Women and Human Rights.” 

Rodríguez in 2017 became the first openly trans person elected to the country’s National Assembly when she became an alternate assemblywoman. She has also been president of Asociación Silueta X.

Rodríguez said the violence has disproportionately affected trans, lesbian and bisexual women. 

“We trans people are especially vulnerable to sexual violence and human trafficking,” she said. “This is not only because of those who promote the internal armed conflict related to narco-crime, but also because of the police and army personnel themselves, who in critical events such as the COVID-19 pandemic, abused their power and violated the rights of trans people, especially trans women, so we are fearful on both sides.” 

“In Ecuador LGBT+ people and especially trans women are afraid of those who should protect us, such as the police and the army,” added Rodríguez.

Christian Paula, executive director of Fundación Pakta, noted to the Blade informed that “a case arose over the weekend, where a couple was violating the curfew, apparently a couple of gay guys on a motorcycle after 11 p.m. and the police asked why they were both on a motorcycle so late at night”.

“They had indicated that they are a couple and what (was outrageous) is that they stripped them naked and sent them without clothes to return to the house,” noted Paula.

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