A month before the Venezuelan electorate goes to the polls to choose their next president in the wake of Hugo Chávez' death the topic of homophobia in the campaign continues to be front page news.
On Monday Hugo Chavez' chosen successor and interim president Nicolás Maduro seemed to echo some homophobic statements from the past by calling himself a someone "who does like women" which some took as a swipe against opposition party candidate Henrique Capriles.
In the past, members of Maduro's campaign have openly questioned Capriles' sexuality and Maduro himself called him a "faggot" during a Chávez campaign rally in March of 2012. Days later Maduro went on television to deny his use of the expression had been in any way homophobic and to apologize if anyone was offended by it.
Calling themselves the "sexually diverse" which is also the term used by Maduro to refer to the LGBT community a couple of organizations associated with with the Chávez revolution came to Maduro's defense. Luis Menenses of the Sexually Diverse Revolutionary Front of Zulia said that media had taken Maduro's most recent comments out of context and willingly left off the last part of his statement which they highlighted in capital letters: "I am someone who likes women, and here I have one. It's great how one feels when one kisses a woman OR THE PERSON ONE LOVES" [Video].
The Front argued that those last few words which were omitted in most reports proved that Maduro's comments on Monday were not a homophobic dig at Capriles and instead framed it as inclusive language that embraced forms of love other than heterosexual.
By then Capriles himself had gone on TV and blasted Maduro for his comments calling it homophobic exclusion "absolute fascism" and telling viewers to demand respect for all. "You cannot talk of inclusion if there is exclusion," Capriles said [Video].
"If that's how you want to attack me, let it be," Capriles said, "but from here on I will always demand respect for all. You cannot talk of inclusion if there is exclusion."
Last evening Maduro responded and denied he ever alluded in any way to Caprile's personal life during his comments on Monday.
[Full translated transcript after commentary]
Call it chutzpah. In denying he ever was alluding to Capriles' personal life On Monday he takes several opportunities in yesterday's response to express respect for Capriles "whatever he might be" - as in gay or straight.
In "respecting" Capriles, Maduro also never manages to use his opponent's name once during the five minute statement. Instead, at various times he calls him the "opposition candidate," "Candidate Mr. Loser," "a prissy man with an aristocratic last name" and "Prince of New York."
As Queerty posted today Maduro has previously joked that Capriles spends time in New York with a close friend and last week, as the site puts it "Jacqueline Faria, a senior official in Chavez’s PSUV party, tweeted that Capriles was in Manhattan because 'it’s easier to come out of the closet in New York than in Los Teques,' the capital city of Miranda, where Capriles was governor."
As he has done in the past, Maduro denies he is a homophobe. He explains:
When you live in a town you have to be respectful of the private lives of all human beings. And in terms of sexuality - what today is known as the concept of the sexually diverse - they are the same friends we have known all of our lives - male and female - from the time we were kids. Because we have always respected them.Maduro also says that if he were gay he'd be proud of it:
If I were gay I'd take ownership of it with pride and shout it to the four winds and I would have no problem loving whoever I had to love with my heart.He then adds another not so veiled dig at Capriles:
Because the worst homophobe is one who is gay and discriminates against his own. It's similar to a foreman in a slave-owner's farm. A black traitor who whips an African man's back. That's the worst homophobe: He who denies his identity and discriminates against his equals.He also claims Chávez made a failed attempt to amend the constitution to include anti-discriminatory language:
We introduced a constitutional amendment to acknowledge their existence and the supreme respect the nation has towards our sexually diverse brothers and sisters - and our opponents and the right called for a vote against that amendment.
Here are Maduro's full comments on homophobia from last night:
I said certain things about my relationship with [my wife] Celia and they have begun to manipulate them. So the losing candidate from the tiny minority that is the embittered oligarchy showed up.
I agree with Gustavo Pereira: Our flag and our valor is love and our victory will come when love prevails over rancor and hate. When true peace prevails. Peace along with justice and equality. The type of peace in which we can come to love each other as one and in which she can love her and he can love him and others can love others.
So don't let them come and say I am homophobic, "erreteromophobic," "heterodophobic" or start to invent other nicknames. I did not delve into...
Camarades! The first thing I have to say is that when you live in a town you have to be respectful of the private lives of all human beings. And in terms of sexuality - what today is known as the concept of the sexually diverse - they are the same friends we have known all of our lives - male and female - from the time we were kids. Because we have always respected them.
So much so that we introduced a constitutional amendment to acknowledge their existence and the supreme respect the nation has towards our sexually diverse brothers and sisters - and our opponents and the right called for a vote against that amendment, for example.
So don't be so manipulative, members of the bourgeois media. We show absolute respect because each person has ownership of his or her life.
Second: I did not delve into the sexual life of the opposition candidate. I did not delve into the issue - it was him who assumed it was about him so he responded against me as if I'd said something about his life.
I respect him and I've said it for a long time as well. One time I used a certain word and I apologize for using that word. I have already apologized several times. You remember the term I used, no?
But what happens in Venezuela is that the when that word that escaped from my soul...
Because they want to present themselves as snobs who cannot stop... and I apologize to snobs who are patriotic and there are lots of them as well - but I am talking about pro-imperialist snobs... Please forgive me for that but let me welcome the male and female snobs who are patriotic and pro-Chavez - and we have a lot of them... a lot [laughs].
Now, this mister - who I've previously called a "prissy man with an aristocratic last name" and "Prince of New York" as he has yet to say how he managed to buy the five million dollar apartment he owns there and will never say it - he showed up full of rage towards me and said I was delving into his personal life.
I have never delved into it, I respect him. Whatever he is, I respect him. And we all must respect him. And I am being absolutely serious: We all have to respect him. But don't be such a manipulator! Don't be such a manipulator!
Each one of us takes... I take ownership of my life with pride and I respect each person who takes ownership of their life with pride. Be whatever it may be.
If I were - and please don't clap your hands and I am going to say this with all of my heart - if I were gay I'd take ownership of it with pride and shout it to the four winds and I would have no problem loving whomever I had to love with my heart.
Because the worst homophobe is one who is gay and discriminates against his own. It's similar to a foreman in a slave-owner's farm. A black traitor who whips an African man's back. That's the worst homophobe: He who denies his identity and discriminates against his equals.
We have respect for all. I have not delved into your life, candidate Mr. Loser. Now you'll face another full defeat and this one will be that much worse because what we will achieve on April 14th will be the greatest victory known to this country and we will do it in the name of Hugo Chávez. In his memory. For the example he gave. For his strength. For the greatness of the historical legacy he left us.
Well, compatriots. Look at this: This is how we govern.Related:
- Venezuela says U.S. 'Far-Right' Wants to Kill Capriles / Gay row (The New York Times)