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'Zero Tolerance' Honduras Arrests Activists

By Richard Stern

San Pedro Sula Mayor Oscar Kilgore: ordered raid on gay bar San Pedro Sula, Honduras--Gays and transgendered people have been targeted for harassment here in the country's industrial center and second largest city.

Jorge Flores, Director of the Non-governmental Association "Comunidad Gay San Pedrana" (Gay Community of San Pedro) denounced a series of bar raids and other actions taken during the past several weeks, since Honduras's new President Ricardo Maduro took office.

This writer, Director of the Agua Buena Human Rights Association, based in Costa Rica, met with Flores and more than a dozen other members of the group on February 26th in their offices on the South Side of this sweltering city of nearly a million people.

Group members reported that San Pedro Sula Mayor Oscar Kilgore ordered a raid on the city's only gay bar, "Boys" on January 12th. Twelve people including Flores and several staff members from "Comunidad Gay," were arrested and held for 24 hours and then released. The bar never reopened.

The raid was part of the new "zero tolerance for crime and delinquency" program announced in January by President Maduro and implemented by Mayor Kilgore.

Kilgore has also ordered city police to detain "transvestites and effeminate looking people" if they cross the railroad tracks that divide the city's south side from its downtown area.

"We are picked up in police cars and taken away from the center of the city and told that we cannot return," said Marlene, a 24 year old transvestite sex worker.

Prostitution is legal in Honduras. Also, the government has announced the formation of a "reeducation" program for prostitutes, and several transvestites as well as female prostitutes have been transported involuntarily to be enrolled.

Municipal Judge Alvaro Aguilar Frenzel denied the group's allegations regarding the Bar Raid, claiming that the only arrests on record have taken place in the street in downtown San Pedro Sula.

"We have people eating dinner with their children in restaurants who have complained to the Police department about nearly naked men dressed as women on the street trying to sell their bodies," said Frenzel. He claimed that nobody has been arrested in any bar raids. Frenzel provided documentation related to arrests that were made on First Avenue in downtown San Pedro Sula last April 24th, based on a law related to offending "public morality." 27 people were arrested on that date.

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"We are not the criminals and delinquents, just a convenient scapegoat for the government," said Flores. "They are violating our rights." He indicated that the group is seeking a meeting with municipal officials to discuss the situation, and hopes for support from the international community.

Aside from the government's crackdown, gays and lesbians face tremendous discrimination in the "machista" Honduran culture. 18 year old group member Armando Sandoval explained how he was expelled from his high school, "Centro Polytecnico del Norte," last year when the school's Director found out he was gay. Sandoval filed a complaint with the City's Human Rights Commission, but the Commission never met with school officials and Armando was not permitted to return to the school. This year he is attending a different school.

If you would like to support "Group Gay San Pedrana" in their struggle against discrimination, you can send letters protesting government actions to the following addresses:
Mayor Oscar Kilgore
San Pedro Sula, Honduras
Tel/Fax 504-553-4646

Municipal Judge Alvaro Aguilar Frenzel
Tel: 504-557-5700
Fax: 504-557-6477

Copies should be sent to:
Jorge Flores
Comunidad Gay San Pedrana
Tel: 504-555-3190
and to

Richard Stern, Ph.D.
Director, Agua Buena Human Rights Association
San José, Costa Rica
Tel/Fax 506-234-2411

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