Guatemala: Transvestites Murdered While the State Stands By

SUMMARY

Two transvestites are known to have been murdered in recent months in Guatemala: Astrid La Fontaine (killed May 20, 2000) and Beverly Lineth (killed July 5, 2000). OASIS (Organizacion de Apoyo a una Sexualidad Integral frente al SIDA), a Guatemalan gay and lesbian organization focusing on HIV and GLBT work has documented 6 to 10 murders of transvestites which have taken place every year between 1997 and 1999. All remain unpunished, as do the murders of La Fontaine and Lineth. IGLHRC and OASIS call for letters to Guatemalan authorities demanding investigations into all these murders, and punishment of those found responsible.

Please write to:

MINISTERIO DEL INTERIOR
Lic. Guillermo Ruiz Wong
6ta. avenida 4-64, zona 4
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemla
Fax: + (502) 362 0239/ 362 0237
Salutation: Sr. Ministro
DIRECTOR GENERAL DE LA POLICIA NACIONAL CIVIL
Mario Rene Cifuentes Echeverría
Director General de la Policia Nacional Civil
6ta avenida 13-71, zona 1
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
Fax: +(502) 251 9382
Salutation: Sr. Director
MINISTERIO PUBLICO
Lic. Adolfo Gonzalez Rodas
Fiscal General de la Republica
Ministerio Publico
6ª avenida 3-11, zona 4
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
Fax: +(502) 2212718
Salutation: Sr. Fiscal General

SEND COPIES TO:

OASIS
Tel/Fax +(502) 220 1332 / 2533453
E-mail: oasis@gua.gbm.net
Claudia@guate.net

and to Guatemalan newspapers:

CERIGUA
2ª calle 1-42, zona 1
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
Tel/fax: +(502) 238 1456 / 221 2521
E-mail: cerigua@guate.net
PRENSA LIBRE
13 calle 9-31, zona 1
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
Tel/fax: +(502) 251 8768
e-mail: medioselectronicos@prensalibre.com.gt

You may also send letters to Guatemalan embassies and/or consulates in your respective countries.

SAMPLE LETTER

Dear. . . :

This is to express our great concern over the murders of transvestites Astrid La Fontaine (Alan Roberto Martinez Castillo, killed May 20, 2000) and Beverly Lineth (killed July 5, 2000). Both murders were committed in public. To date, authorities have not even launched credible investigations to identify those responsible, in spite of complaints filed by OASIS (Organizacion de Apoyo a la Sexualidad Integral frente al SIDA). OASIS has documented 6 to 10 murders of transvestites every year between 1997 and 1999. All remain unpunished.

The Guatemalan State's indifference towards the lives and deaths of its transvestite citizens arouses both indignation and horror. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "all human beings are born free and equal in their dignity and rights." International covenants by which Guatemala is bound, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the American Convention on Human Rights, number among these rights the right to life, freedom, and personal safety and the right to equal protection under the law without discrimination.

We remind you of the findings of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the case of Velasquez Rodriguez v. Honduras, that a State must take action to prevent human rights violations, and to investigate and punish them when they occur. Failure to do so itself represents a violation of basic rights on the State's part. Impunity conveys the message that the victims do not matter. Stigmatizing certain citizens as undeserving of the State's protection is a perversion of the social order.

Guatemala's transvestite citizens do indeed matter to the international community: and we will be watchful and alert to see that justice is rendered for these crimes.

We are confident that the State you represent will do its duty swiftly and efficiently, investigating these crimes and punishing those found responsible. To do so will contribute to eradicating a climate of violence and impunity in Guatemala, which has caused immense damage not only to specific communities but to society as a whole.

Respectfully yours,

(signature)

BACKGROUND

"Social cleansing" is a steady and unsanitary reality in Guatemala. Among the main groups pursued, persecuted, murdered, and harassed have been the lesbian, gay and--most especially--transvestite communities.

Over decades of armed internal conflict, the violence exerted against these sectors remained unseen and mostly untold. However, in the past few years, beginning with the brutal murder of Luis Palencia--alias Maria Conchita, an honorary member of OASIS (Organizacion de Apoyo a una Sexualidad Integral frente al SIDA)--on October 4, 1997, murders of transvestites have been increasing, and increasingly visible.

OASIS' figures show 6 and 10 transvestite murders every year: yet these represent only known cases, where friends of the victims filed a complaint.

In the first 6 months of 2000, 4 murders of transvestite sex workers have been documented; another has left the country as a result of threats and intimidation following an interview with the country's most widely read publication.

The National Civil Police (PNC) hound and harass transvestites, taking away the money they earn, arresting and abusing them, and, in some cases, raping them. The PNC offers this vulnerable group only terror, not protection.

Of those murdered most recently, Astrid La Fontaine (Allan Roberto Martinez Castillo) was one of the transvestites most closely involved in AIDS prevention work and in providing support to her companions. She was a strong contributor to OASIS's cultural and artistic activities.

Astrid was a sex worker in Zone 1 of Guatemala City. She was attacked with gunshots while working on a street corner, in the early hours of May 20, 2000. Her attacker and murderer stepped from a car nearby and shot her.

Beverly Lineth was murdered in the early hours of July 5, 2000. Beverly was known to her companions as a calm, shy, and highly ethical person. Her colleagues say that she had been a sex worker for only one year and a half.

According to reports from other transvestites who worked with her, on that morning three young men in a vehicle drove through the downtown area, badgering and bullying transvestites. One of Beverly's fellow workers says that she felt frightened when accosted by these men and immediately notified a police patrol of the Anti-Narcotic Operations Department (DOAN). The patrol ordered the men to stop, asked them for identification and then let them go.

A few minutes later, the young men returned and took Beverly with them by deceit and force. Her companions say that was the last time they saw her alive. At about 6 that morning, one of her companions who lived in the same hotel searched for her through the round of local hospitals, worried because she had not returned. She found Beverly in the General Hospital, beaten severely but still alive. She then went to fetch other friends and, upon her return to the hospital, was informed that Beverly had died.

"Beverly was one of the prettiest, her skin was smooth and soft, very fine-looking. But when I saw her, she no longer looked like herself. Her face was totally disfigured. All the blows she had taken had been to her face. Her face was so large it did not seem hers. Apparently she was beaten with a piece of pipe or something like that", says the transvestite who saw her in the General Hospital.

Beverly was Nicaraguan. Her family did not know about her work in Guatemala. They are frightened and do not want her birth name revealed.

OASIS activists believe that the perpetrators of these acts of violence are paramilitary forces which, in the current situation, are reorganizing to work against nonconforming sexualities.

Obtaining justice for the victims will be difficult. Those who file complaints do so in the face of a long history of impunity, in which paramilitary brutality and other criminal acts went unhindered by official inquiry or investigation. And the friends of the victims fear retaliation.

OASIS has pursued both cases at the Public Ministry; nevertheless, the Ministry has not forwarded the information to the appropriate Public Prosecutors to begin investigations. OASIS is also looking for sympathetic lawyers to assist them in the proceedings.

OASIS states: "We feel battered. They continue to kill us, rape us, discriminate against us, injure us, they continue to deny us the right to have rights, they continue to destroy us. They do not know that this only makes us stronger, brings us closer together, and makes us prouder of being who we are and of struggling for our human rights."