Yonatan Matheus is a LGBTI rights defender, social worker and president of Venezuela Diversa. He advocates on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people (LGBTI) persons, in particular concerning topics such as discrimination and unequal treatment against LGBTI persons, human rights violations against trans women who are also sex workers, hate crimes and police brutality against LGBTI people.
Since 2008, the civil society organisation Venezuela Diversa has been promoting and defending the rights of LGBTI persons. The work of the organisation is oriented towards combating discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression in particular when these pose a threat to life and personal security, the right to be equal before the law, and the right to form a family.
In early 2016, Yonatan Matheus and his colleague Wendell Oviedo were made aware of death threats against them as a result of their human rights work on behalf of transgender sex workers. Previously, the human rights defenders supported an investigation into the murder of two transgender sex workers on Libertador Avenue. Shortly after, the police apprehended several suspects who were members of a criminal band involved in exploitation of sex workers in the area. The death threats occurred when several of those who had been arrested were released from holding.
In March 2015, Yonatan Matheus and Wendell Oviedo were followed, harassed and photographed by unknown individuals throughout the Simón Bolívar de Maiquetía International Airport in the outskirts of Caracas, when they returned to the country after participating in the 155th Session of Hearings organised by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in Washington, D.C. The individuals who followed them had access to both restricted and general areas of the airport. The human rights defenders were invited to the hearings organised by the IACHR to report on the state of LGBTI persons in Venezuela.
In October 2015, Yonatan Matheus and Wendell Oviedo were once again followed, harassed and photographed by unknown individuals as they made their way out of the Simón Bolívar de Maiquetía International Airport. In that instance, the human rights defenders had taken part in the 156th session of hearings organised by the IACHR, where they presented a report about the general situation of human rights defenders in Venezuela alongside other civil society organisations.
In July 2014, Yonatan Matheus and Wendell Oviedo were walking on the street, in the surroundings of the Caracas' Museum of Fine Arts, when two unknown men armed with guns stopped them, took their cellphones and threatened them saying they would kill them unless they stopped talking about the situation of transgender sex workers in Libertador Avenue. The assailants were referring to the human rights defenders' work denouncing police brutality, sexual abuse and physical attacks affecting transgender sex workers in Caracas' Libertador Avenue.
Despite the fact that the defenders have denounced all the efforts to intimidate them to the corresponding authorities, to date there has been no investigation and no protective measures have been granted to the defenders. As a result, the defenders have had to temporarily relocate out of the country to safeguard their lives.