Honduras: one journalist murdered, one kidnapped

The body of Honduran journalist and LGBT rights activist Erick Alex Martínez Avila was found by a highway in the Tegucigalpa metropolitan area on May 7. He had reportedly been strangled, and the murder is believed to have taken place the day before. Martínez Avila was the communications director for Kukulcan, an organization that defends the rights of the LGBT community, and he was a founder of the Movement of Diversity in Resistance (MDR) and a member of the leftist group Los Necios Political Organization (los necios means “the obstinate ones”). Martínez Avila was also running in the Nov. 18 primary elections to be a candidate for legislative deputy in 2013 on the line of the Freedom and Refoundation Party (LIBRE), a new party formed by the grassroots National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP).

According to the Latin American Federation of Journalists (FELAP), Martínez Avila was the 22nd Honduran journalist to be murdered since June 2009, when President José Manuel (“Mel”) Zelaya Rosales (2006-2009) was overthrown in a military coup. The MDR says the journalist was also the 20th member of the LGBT community to be murdered since President Porfirio (“Pepe”) Lobo Sosa took office in January 2010. (InfoBAE, Argentina, May 8, from DPA, AFP; Adital, Brazil, May 8; Adital, May 10)

Alfredo Villatoro, a reporter and news coordinator for the HRN radio chain, was kidnapped in Tegucigalpa in the early morning of May 9 while he was on his way to work. The police quickly arrested former police sergeant Gerson Basilio Godoy, who was driving a Toyota pickup that had been seen parked in front of Villatorio’s house that morning; the truck had also collided with the reporter’s car, as was shown by paint marks from the other vehicle. The Public Prosecutor’s office released Godoy after 10 hours, saying the evidence was insufficient.

Godoy was dismissed from the police force in September 2011 on suspicion of belonging to a band of kidnappers and extortionists (in a year that saw public scandals over corruption in the police force). In March he was questioned about a robbery attempt against an official, but he was not charged. (Honduras Culture and Politics blog, May 9; La Tribuna, Tegucigalpa, May 9) As of May 13 Villatorio was still missing, and the Honduran government had brought in police experts from Colombia and the US to help in the investigation. (El Heraldo, Tegucigalpa, May 13)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 13.

See our last posts on Honduras and Central America.