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Day 26: René Martínez

Photo from Democratic Underground

​*** IMPORTANT ***

This article mentions blood, violence, beating, brutality, strangulation, and distressing imagery.

Please continue with caution.


This case happened back in 2016 and this article was written in June 2020. So far there haven’t been any arrests in the case.

It was a regular day in the Chamelecón neighbourhood in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. It was nearing the end of the work day for most people while others were getting ready for their shifts if they worked a night shift. It was just a regular day for the residents who thought nothing of it. There were the usual issues with the gangs in the area but the people were so used to it that they hardly registered it anymore. The gangs were just a part of life for them.

One man was just arriving home from work. It had been a long day and all he wanted was to take a nice long shower then relax in front of the TV. He had gotten so much work during the day and there was still so much more that needed to be done. He lived a very busy life but he never complained. In fact, he rather enjoyed it because what he did helped many people in his area and even his country. It was rewarding despite how drained he felt after certain days.

He stepped out of his car then locked it. Just as he was about to take a step towards the house he heard a car racing down the street. He didn’t really think too much about it. Gang members were known to speed down streets or it could have just been some crazy, out of control young adults. Whoever they were pulled up quickly to his driveway. Their vehicle screeched to a halt and two doors slammed open.

The man heard the commotion behind him and turned around to see what was going on. He didn’t have time to process anything. As soon as he turned, two people wearing masks grabbed him by the arms and began to drag him to the car. He called out to them and asked them what was going on and what was the meaning of this. Why were they doing this to him? What he had done to gain their attention? He got no answer from any of them. They simply forced him into the backseat and slammed the doors behind them.

Even before the doors clicked into place the vehicle speed off down the road. The man who had been taken was in such shock that he didn’t even have any words. He just sat there with wide eyes in between two masked figures as they sped off. He didn’t dare look at them. He was afraid of what they would do if he made eye contact. They had been rough with him already. He didn’t want to aggravate the situation. He looked down at his feet as the car drove off.

Just after the car vanished down the street, the other occupants of the house began to panic. They had seen everything through the window. They saw their loved one being forced into a car with these masked people. Even if they wanted to do something, they knew they couldn’t. Who knows what those people would have done to anyone who dared interfered. The only thing they could do was to watch helplessly as their loved one was taken away but once the car disappeared, one of the occupants ran right to the house phone. They picked it up and called the police to report what had just happened.

When the police arrived the people told them what they had seen and described the car and the occupants as best as they could. They had made sure to remember as much as possible but the police weren’t too sure if they could track down the car but they promised the family that they would do their best. They told the family to remain calm, lock their doors and windows and to not give up hope. They would do the best with the information they had and wouldn’t stop until they found the man. That provided them some relief but they were still worried.

~ 🏳️‍🌈 ~

In the car, one of the men pulled a pillowcase over the frightened man’s head while the other tied his hands together with a zip tie. He secured it as tightly as possible which hurt but the man didn’t dare say anything. He had to be very careful with what he said around these men. He wouldn’t be surprised if they beat him over the smallest annoyance.

So he sat there for the duration of the ride in complete silence. He didn’t move a muscle or utter a word. His kidnappers didn’t say anything either. They didn’t even taunt him which he thought to be odd. Surely they would have said something to try and intimidate him but no. The whole ride was quiet and very tense.

When they finally arrived at their destination the man was forcefully pulled from the car and shoved in a direction. He was disoriented as they refused to take off the pillowcase but tried his best to remain calm. He regained his footing and went in the direction he was guided in.

He could tell that they had taken him into a building but he wasn’t sure how big or small it was. He could tell that there wasn’t much light as the pillowcase still allowed him to see the changes in light but nothing else.

He was forced to sit on a chair and did it without hesitation. He knew that the less he fought them, the higher chance he had of making it out of the situation alive. When he was seated he could feel that his legs were bound together. This was probably done as a precaution to keep him from running away but even without the binding the man wouldn’t dare.

When all seemed to settle down, the man found the courage to talk again. He asked what was going on and nothing else. He didn’t want to annoy his kidnappers with being too chatty. He gulped as he waited for a response. The fact that he didn’t get one immediately worried him. Why weren’t they saying anything? Surely they brought him to their hideout for a reason. Were they going to interrogate him for information? Perhaps they wanted names of people in the LGBTQ+ community. It wouldn’t be that shocking if that was what they were after. Maybe they had a hit list and wanted to go after LGBTQ+ people. If that was the case then the man made up his mind. He wasn’t going to say a word even if it killed him. He couldn’t betray the community he loved so much so if he were to die then so be it.

~ 🏳️‍🌈 ~

His kidnappers kept him waiting for a long time. He wasn’t sure how much time had passed but it had to have been hours at least. Minutes could feel like hours if one didn’t know the time and couldn’t see the light of the sun but the man knew it wasn’t minutes that had passed since he arrived. He knew hours had passed but how many, he wasn’t sure. He guessed that maybe five hours had gone by but it could have been more.

Eventually one of them began to speak to him. They started off laughing at him because he looked so pathetic according to them. They were amused at the sight of the man tied up on the chair. The man didn’t flinch or react. He wanted to engage with the kidnappers as little as possible.

When the kidnapper didn’t get the reaction he was hoping for he tried again but to no avail. Angered, the kidnapper now resorted to kicking and punching the man while he continued to taunt him. Still he got no response. The kidnapper turned to his friends and asked what the hell was wrong with the man. Was he broken? Why didn’t anything affect him?

The other men in the room shrugged and suggested things the kidnapper could do to the man. They told him where to hit or kick him and soon his knife got involved. He took it out of his pocket and began to make little slices all over the man’s body. It wasn’t necessarily meant to draw blood but merely to torture him.

The men laughed and soon began asking the man some questions. They asked him why he wasn’t reacting or putting up a fight. They were curious. They asked him if he was afraid, even a little bit but the man refused to engage. He did his best to think of something positive. To pretend that he was somewhere else. He pretended that he was back home with his family and that they were together at the table talking about how their days went.

It almost brought a tear to his eye but he knew that he would return to them soon enough. In time his kidnappers would get bored of him and let him go. He just had to wait this out. Surely his family would have called the police by now. Perhaps they were on their way. He just had to hold on a little longer and then he would be free.

While he was off in his little world, he failed to hear anything his kidnappers were saying to him. This angered them when they didn’t get any response from the man. They continued to beat and cut him but still nothing worked.

After many, many hours they gave up. The man wasn’t talking and it seemed as if he wouldn’t. There was no point in continuing, they reasoned. It was best that they dispose of him since he was of no use to them.

One of the men got out a rope that he had been holding on to for some time and walked up to the prisoner with a smirk on his face. He wrapped the rope around the man’s neck and pulled as hard as he could. The man jerked at the sudden action and tried his best to fight back but he was no match. Not only was he tied up but he was a lot smaller and significantly weaker than the man with the rope. Even if he hadn't been tied up he wouldn’t have stood a chance.

It took some doing but soon the man stopped moving. He no longer struggled. His body went limp and he slouched in the chair but that wasn’t the end of it. He had passed out due to the lack of air but he was still alive. The man knew this so he kept the rope tightened around his neck for a bit longer. After a few more minutes had passed one of the other men came up and checked their prisoner’s pulse. He was dead.

His name was René Martínez and he was 40 years old.

AFTERMATH

René Martínez’s body was found two days later on the 3rd of June, 2016 in Colonia Canada, Choloma in Honduras which is not too far away from San Pedro Sula. After his body was found his family went to the San Pedro Sula’s morgue and identified him. His body showed signs of violence and the cause of death appears to be strangulation.

There is no clear clue as to the motivation behind the killing or who is responsible. As of June 2020, there has been no news on any arrests in the case.

IN LIFE

René Martínez was very popular in his hometown. He was described as one of the main defenders of the LGBTQ+ community. He even was considering running for Congress in 2017 with the Partido Nacional (National Party). He was an enthusiastic demoratic leader who did his best to improve the quality of life for the people in his community.

He worked in the same area where he lived, in the Chamelecón area of San Pedro Sula, Honduras. This area was one of the most dangerous neighbourhoods as it had a high gang presence.

He did many things to serve his community. He worked as the president of his community council, the Comunidad Gay Sampedrana por la Salud Integral (Gay Community of San Pedro Sula for Integral Health), conventional member of the National Party, volunteer youth outreach center supported by USAID, and was a member of the Access Committee for Comprehensive Care of Persons living with HIV in the Northern Coast which was also supported by UNAIDS.

In October of 2015, both USAID and the Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute sponsored a conference in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. The conference focused on supporting the political engagement of the LGBTQ+ community in both Latin America and the Caribbean. Over 300 activists from across the region attended the gathering and René was one of them. Notable people who arrived were Randy Berry and Tamara Adrián who were with a Special U.S. Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons. Tamara Adrián is the first openly transgendered persion who has been elected into the Venezuelan National Assembly.

SOURCES

Articles

  1. “Activists forge ahead in violence-plagued Honduras city”. Michael K. Lavers. Washington Blade, 20 February 2017, https://www.washingtonblade.com/2017/02/20/activists-forge-ahead-violence-plagued-honduras-city/.

  2. “CASE HISTORY: RENÉ MARTÍNEZ”. Frontline Defenders, 8 June 2016, https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/case-history-rene-martinez.

  3. “Honduras Gay Rights Activist Rene Martinez Murdered”. Zachary Volkert. Inquisitr, 6 June 2016, https://www.inquisitr.com/3172662/honduras-gay-rights-activist-rene-martinez-murdered/.

  4. “Matan a presidente de la Comunidad Gay en San Pedro Sula”. La Prensa, 3 June 2016, https://www.laprensa.hn/sucesos/966575-410/matan-a-presidente-de-la-comunidad-gay-en-san-pedro-sula.

  5. “NDI MOURNS TRAGIC ASSASSINATION OF HONDURAN LGBTI ACTIVIST RENÉ MARTÍNEZ”. NDI, 21 June 2016, https://www.ndi.org/NDI_Mourns_Rene_Mart%C3%ADnez.

  6. “Prominent LGBT activist murdered in Honduras”. Michael K. Lavers. Washington Blade, 4 June 2016, https://www.washingtonblade.com/2016/06/04/prominent-lgbt-activist-murdered-in-honduras/.

  7. “René Martinez Izaguirre”. Human Rights Defenders Memorial, https://hrdmemorial.org/fr/hrdrecord/rene-martinez-izaguirre/.

  8. “Rene Martinez, Leader of LGBT Community in Honduras, Kidnapped and Murdered”. Andy Towle. Towleroad, 5 June 2016, https://www.towleroad.com/2016/06/rene-martinez/.

  9. “State Department condemns murder of LGBT activist in Honduras”. Michael K. Lavers. Washington Blade, 6 June 2016, https://www.washingtonblade.com/2016/06/06/state-department-condemns-murder-of-lgbt-activist-in-honduras/.

Images

  1. René Martínez. Democratic Underground. https://www.democraticunderground.com/10141480353.


Notes
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