By Richard Stern
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.
"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
Municipal Judge Alvaro Aguilar Frenzel
Copies should be sent to:
Comunidad Gay San Pedrana
and to email@example.com
Richard Stern, Ph.D.
Director, Agua Buena Human Rights Association
San José, Costa Rica