As the Venezuelan election heats up in the wake of Hugo Chavez' death ugly recriminations have flown back and forth between those who support chosen interim president Nicolás Maduro and opposition candidate Henrique Capriles.
Some of Capriles' supporters have taken to denigrating Maduro for his former life as a poor bus driver exposing existing classist bias while some of Maduro's supporters have revived recent allegations that Capriles is gay and attacked him for his Jewish heritage even though Capriles calls himself a Catholic man.
From Reuters tonight:
Capriles, a descendant of Polish Jews on his mother's side, was a victim of racist and homophobic slurs from Chavez supporters last year. Maduro appeared to allude to his rival's sexuality during Monday's rally.
"I do have a wife, you know? I do like women!" he told the crowd with his wife Cilia Flores at his side, who has served as attorney general but is stepping down to join her husband's campaign.
Though single, Capriles has had various high-profile girlfriends in the past. He scoffs at the personal insults, saying they illustrate the government's aggressive mindset.Following those remarks by Maduro this morning a number of LGBT Venezuelans spent the day on social media like Twitter urging Capriles to publicly denounce Maduro's homophobia. Tonight he did just that.
I'd like to send a respectful and considerate message in rejection to the homophobic remarks made by Nicolás [Maduro] today. It's not the first time. I believe in a society without exclusion and that's the way I express it to the country. A society where no one feels excluded based on the way they think, their race, their creed, their sexual orientation. People should go out and reject it.
That's fascism. Absolute fascism. From the extreme right.
If that's how you want to attack me, let it be. But from here on I will always demand respect for all Venezuelans. Because the society that we want to build in Venezuela is a society without exclusion.
It's not the first time that Maduro has called Capriles' sexuality into question. In April of 2012 when Capriles was running against Chávez the then Vice President used the word "faggot" to describe the opposition.You cannot talk of inclusion if there is exclusion. There should be overwhelming rejection of something like that.
That's the ilk of these stuck-up faggot fascists who pretend they can win the elections as they face the Venezuelan public. But they have yet to overcome our community's lineage as liberators and they will never do.The outrage was such that Maduro appeared on television a few days later with a semi-apology.
Some have tried to manipulate it. What I said at that moment was in the heat of remembering all the passion generated when you recall how all these stuck-up fascists believed they had all power in their hands and went out on a fascist hunt to capture, imprison and kill the people. And how they dared do something that not even Pinochet and his dictatorship dared to do: Attack the Cuban Embassy. In the heat of all that I used some expressions such as 'stuck-up' - and I went further than that.
We all respect the militant sexual diversity community that is active within the Venezuelan United Socialist Party, our organization. Tomorrow, the Great Patriotic Pole will establish the national team and the national organization for sexual diversity. Even in the Foreign Ministry - where I work - they always have known that we respect them and that we have done our work without treating them any different.
In any case, and let me say this to you, if it's the product of a genuine sentiment or a product of whatever it is, if someone from the sexual diversity community felt bothered or discriminated against, I apologize. I am sorry. There is room, within that expression, for someone to have felt somehow offended by an expression that had a different connotation... There is no reason why I should delve into anyone's sexual condition. That of our adversaries, the opposition's candidate, their leadership or anyone. Each person is free to do what they want with their lives to achieve happiness. I would never ever get involved with Capriles Randoski or his condition whatever it may be. It's not up to me to define it. That's why I am offering an apology to whomever felt offended or attacked.That apology would probably carried more weight if supporters of Chávez had not systematically used the same word to describe Capriles at campaign events. This one goes back to 2010 (lower volume on your computer).
Pablo de Miranda of the United Socialist Party:
No mincing words in that one.We are here to tell the truth to your followers. You are a man without shame, a traitor, a fascist, a cunning thief and a homosexual. And we are saying this because we have proof that even when you opted for a lady named [...] you declared yourself gay to that lady. We have her name, we are giving it to you so you know exactly the kind of governor we have in this state.
In fourteen years of Chávez rule, the advancement of LGBT rights in Venezulea came to a standstill. Unlike Maduro he never - to my knowledge - expressed a single derogatory word about members of the LGBT community but he also never lifted a single finger to back LGBT-friendly legislation.
Capriles has an uphill battle to emerge victorious when the special presidential election takes place thirty days from now. If he does, his statements tonight mean that he will have the responsibility of proving he means what he says by enacting pro-LGBT legislation soon after he takes the presidency. If not, Maduro has to prove that he truly means to represent all Venezuelans and not just those who support him.
On March 5th - after Chávez death was announced and before the recent homophobic skirmishes - Maduro said that the "sexually diverse" would be guaranteed protections under a future socialist government.
We will continue to offer guarantees on all levels. From the highest ranks of the political-military leadership of the country to all levels of the popular movement: Community councils, communes, urban committees, water resource committees, electric resource committees, grassroots farming organizations, all grassroots community organizations, the Great Patriotic Pole [political party], the social labor movements, women's rights movements, young people, the sexually-diverse, professionals, technical engineers.
The entire nation has constructed the Great Patriotic Pole. From the [political] revolutionary parties - all of them - the United Socialist Party of Venezuela and their militants and leaders throughout the nation, the Communist Party of Venezuela, the People's Electorate Movement, the UPB, the Tupamaro, Podemos, PPT. All compatriots, all activated, as one man and one woman. As a single patriotic fist. United in Chávez. United in the liberator's dream. United in the construction of a nation of all and for allUPDATE (3/12/13): Since writing this post on March 11th, several Venezuelan LGBT and HIV prevention organizations including AXA: Activistas por el Arcoiris, Alianza Lambda de Venezuela, ACCSI VIH/Sida and Union Afirmativa have strongly condemned Maduro's words and applauded Capriles for his statements. For the most part these are organizations who were also strongly critical of the Chávez government and what they saw as inaction on LGBT issues.
Throughout the years the Chávez government did count with strong support from a few LGBT organizations including Movimiento Gay Revolucionario de Venezuela and the Frente Sexo-Diverso Revolucionario de Zulia.
Frente released a statement dated March 12th defending Maduro:
To all LGBT, feminist, Afro-decedent, indigenous and disability rights activists, women, men, children, everyone:I'm also reminded that when it comes homophobic expressions, the left doesn't have the ground covered. A right-wing newspaper editor from Spain alleged that Chávez himself was gay in an OpEd that hardly hid his homophobic intention. Chávez's response? He said he was too macho to be gay.
The Frente Sexo-Diverso Revolucionario de Zulia responds to all the media trash being lobbed against Nicolás Maduro for statements made yesterday March 11th in Caracas during his registration as a presidential candidate.
His statements were not at all homophobic and here is what he said textually: A mi si me Gustan las Mujeres, que Rico es Besar a una Mujer o al ser que UNO AMA ["I am someone who likes women, it feels great to kiss a woman or the person ONE LOVES"].
That is a reference to the sexually diverse community. The Frente will vote in favor of Maduro based on our loyalty to Chávez.
In addition, his statements on Tuesday, March 5th of 2013 [ed. - see the last video posted above] were very clear: "The sexually diverse are important for the construction of the nation" as Maduro said on the National Channel in front of the civil-military leadership, the presidential Cabinet and the 20 Bolivarian Governors of Venezuela.
Thanks to the Bolivarian Government as led by Commandant Hugo Chávez - to which Maduro has belonged for a long time and continues to belong - they have given an opening the sexually diverse in all social and political areas.
There have been articles within laws and statements against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity submitted before the United Nations and the Organization of American States signed and ratified by Venezuela as a country that guarantees the human rights of the sexually diverse.
In the Nation's Plan, Objective 2.2 says "To build an equal and just society".
Objective 18.104.22.168 says "To put special emphasis on gender relations. Based on this, to support the creation of work groups constituted by women with the goal of reflecting on their family and work life and produce strategies of resistance and liberation, since they suffer the brunt of the dominant culture where the woman is relegated to a secondary role and often suffer explicit forms of violence. The same applies to sexually diverse groups (homosexuals, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender persons) forced to live in repressive and humiliating conditions where the only path is the frivolity offered by the capitalist world".
The Frente Sexo-Diverso Revolucionario de Zulia will work to bring Nicolás Maduro to the presidency by providing more than 5,000 votes of the sexually diverse just from Zulia alone.
Signed: Luis Menenses in representation of the Frente Sexo-Diverso Revolucionario de Zulia. Until victory always, we will live on and we will win victory. "Chávez lives, the fight continues".