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U.S. State Department officials defended themselves Sunday after awarding Ecuador a grant of over $20,000 for a cultural center to host drag shows for LGBTQ communities in the South American country.
Earlier this week, Fox News reported the State Department began promoting “diversity and inclusion efforts” using taxpayer dollars to fund “drag shows in South America. Such efforts included a $20,600 grant to the non-profit Centro Ecuatoriano Norteamericano (CEN). The center would use the money on three workshops, a two-minute documentary, and 12 drag theater performances until Aug. 31, 2023.
Doubling down on their stance, a State Department spokesperson told Fox News Digital in a statement that the grant funds programs in Ecuador to incorporate and conceptualize “diversity, inclusion, and representation to equity and accessibility.” Of the number of programs sponsored by American tax dollars, one aims to use the arts to raise awareness about diversity and inclusivity, which gives LGBTQ people an outlet “to express themselves freely and safely.”
“In September 2022, the U.S. Department of State awarded a grant to the Centro Cultural Ecuatoriano Norteamericano Abraham Lincoln, a U.S.-Ecuadorian cultural center in Cuenca, Ecuador, for a program that uses the arts to raise awareness about diversity and inclusion,” the spokesperson said. “The program’s goal is to promote tolerance, and the arts provide new opportunities for LGBTQI+ Ecuadorians to express themselves freely and safely.”
The spokesperson said that facilitators and artists in Cuenca would collaborate with a local theater company to create workshops and plays, which would be video documented.
“LGBTQI+ people across the globe deserve to live in societies free from targeted violence and discrimination,” the spokesperson said. “Recent data suggest an alarming and deadly rise in violence against LGBTQI+ persons in Ecuador.”
A 2021 human rights in Ecuador report published by the State Department said, “Members of society engaged in crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex persons.”
State Dept. officials said some examples of violence and threats against community members included social stigma on HIV and AIDS, hate crimes, and students susceptible to school bullying.
The spokesperson said the program would advance “key U.S. values of diversity and the inclusion of LGBTQI+ communities” and promote the “acceptance of communities that are disproportionately affected by violence.”
Fox News reports the State Department has granted CEN hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years, but the new grant appears to be the first time funding has been explicitly given for drag shows.
Former television producer Lara Trump told Fox New’s Emily Compagno during her show “Outnumbered” that sending taxpayer money to a foreign country for such causes is an example of why Americans feel upset when they see their money “squandered and used for things that we don’t understand.”
“We are sending American taxpayer dollars to another country to support drag performances,” Trump said. “This is our money. Why aren’t we spending it here?”