Guest Blogger

Venezuela: Is President Hugo Chavez - gulp! - gay?

Filed By Guest Blogger | September 10, 2007 8:25 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Andres Duque, Blabbeando, closet cases, coming out of the closet, Hugo Chavez, Venezuela

[EDITOR'S NOTE:] The following guest post comes to us from Andrés Duque from Blabbeando. Born in Colombia, South America, Andrés is a proud immigrant to the United States. He was a co-founder of the Colombian Lesbian and Gay Association (COLEGA), the Audre Lorde Project and the People of Color Political Action Club (OutPOCPAC). He also served on the board of the Empire State Pride Agenda, New York State's largest gay and lesbian political advocacy organization. Andrés is recognized throughout the United States and Latin America for his activism in the Latino LGBT community and was named to Out Magazine's annual top 100 activists' list in 2002.

chavez0508.jpg[h/t: Dos Manzanas] Well-known Spaniard journalist Luis María Ansón, who used to direct the Spanish-language news agency EFE and also ran ABC, one of Spain's leading newspapers, is ruffling a few feathers with an opinion piece titled "Chavez and homosexuality" that was published yesterday in the opinion pages of Spain's El Mundo (it's only accessible to subscribers but has been put up at the online page of the anti-Chavez Venezuelan newspaper noticias24).

My translation and commentary after the jump.

Chávez and homosexuality by Luis Maria Ansón (El Mundo, Friday, September 8, 2007)

In Venezuela, the great majority of men and women have brown or black-colored eyes; a minority, blue. It is a thing of nature. It would be absurd to discriminate those men or women with blue eyes in regards to their political, social or economic rights. In that great country, the immense majority of men and women are heterosexual; a minority, homosexual. It is a thing of nature. It would be absurd to discriminate politically, socially or economically against gays and lesbians. From the communist tyranny of Castro in Cuba to the satrap dictatorship in Saudi Arabia, there are still many the countries in which homosexuals are denied basic rights.

There should be agreement that, in western democracies, injustice and persecution against the homosexual sector - to a lesser or greater degree - have ended. Today, in nations governed by pluralist democracies, the average citizen accepts the homosexual reality without [engaging in] discrimination, ridicule or humiliation. To call a man a homosexual or a woman a lesbian is no longer an insult but instead, on the contrary, in many cases it strengthens the gay pride.

I say all this so that there is no doubt whatsoever that I am not trying to offend to anyone when I echo what many serious homosexuals affirm through internet regarding the Venezuelan military leader (caudillo). They affirm that he is gay even if he has not stepped out of the closet.

Much like it happens with the Freemasons, who no longer have to hide because no one is persecuting them, homosexuals know that they can leave the closet with no problem. It seems logical that if a president is a Freemason, a Jehovah's Witness or belongs to Opus Dei, the nation he governs should know it. And also that if a president is gay, his country should have knowledge of this condition.

Several organizations of homosexuals in Venezuela congratulate themselves on the reality of the sexuality they attribute to their military leader who governs them with methods copied, by the way, from orthodox Castro-ism. I neither want to address the question nor leave it aside because I don't know [the answer]. Now, it does seem to me that the public opinion of the great Hispano-American country has the right to know if what these groups say is true or not. Furthermore an ambassador with a good reputation confirms the same thing without the smallest pejorative intent, since to be gay today in the western democracies is only one more bit of data which is the source of pride for the majority of those affected by it.

Military leader Chávez imitates Castro the tyrant even in the unmeasured length of his speeches. It wouldn't be a bad thing if he dedicated a few minutes of his uncontrollable verbal-diarrhea to clarify what so many people in his country are saying. This would contribute to make possible in Venezuela what has already been conquered in Spain, Holland, Denmark and other European nations: That heterosexuals are able to work at companies, without making fun or rejecting homosexuals. The problem of Chávez is not, in any case, his sexual condition but a political system that tries to impose and tries to root out any vestige of political freedom. The new military leader has already decided, as Castro has, that his rule will be for life, and - with the help of pro-Castro agents and the western world's myopia - continues to advance every day the Soviet socialist program that he has decided to impose on Venezuela (Luis Maria Ansón is a member of the Real Spanish Academy).

Obviously some things jump at you immediately: Mr. Ansón, for one thing, is no friend of Fidel Castro, socialism or Communism - or a fan of Chávez.

He also tries to argue that he is not a homophobe either but his words betray him: I wonder, for example, if he would question Chávez' sexual "condition" if Ansón got his desired proof that the Venezuelan president is indeed not gay; in addition, I am glad that he feels that being "affected" by homosexuality is no longer such a biggie now that we have won the right for heterosexuals to stop making fun of us. Ah! Liberation!

OK, I know my gaydar is bad most times but I am pretty certain that Chávez is straight. I also know that there are little bits of truth in this opinion piece: When Chávez found himself in power, some of the right-wing elite that was previously in power spread all sorts of unfounded rumors in attempts to topple him and so did anti-Chávez press outlets. Among the rumors were attacks "on his manhood": How he was surrounded by a cadre of gay advisers and military leaders and how even Chávez might also be gay.

As for all those anonymous "serious homosexuals" and gay organizations: I know of no gay-rights organization in Venezuela that has ever claimed that Chávez is or might be gay although I do know of one that reveres him as if he were a God and parrots his every exclamation as if it were all that the Venezualan gay community needed.

The truth is that, while there are a few instances when he has used rhetoric bunching up homosexuals with prostitutes and drug-dealers and in which his anti-United States policies have caused major disruptions in access to HIV medicines in the country, overall Chávez has not had a strong anti-gay record or - unfortunately - a pro-gay one either. And I say this as someone who thinks Chávez is a clown who is lucky to have millions of dollars from oil production to appease the population and burnish his popular cred while his ego and dictatorial fever just grows unchallenged (much blame goes to the right-wing Venezuelan oligarchy who choose to demonize Chávez without offering a viable political alternative).

For example, Agence France-Press reported yesterday that Tamara Adrian, a transgender university professor (also a Latin American representative to the International Gay and Lesbian Law Association and a former National Assembly candidate) led a group of advocates to the Venezuelan parliament where they asked the legislative body to legalize same-sex unions.

"We are asking for the right to marriage or to a legal union similar to those called concubine relationships," said Adrian, "and the recognition of joint maternal or paternal rights in the families of gay or lesbian couples."

The group was also petitioning for the community to be included in legislation that prohibited discrimination.

I'm not sure how far they will go. It's a little bizarre but even those Venezuelan newspapers that reported on these demands picked it up from the AFP report and none the portals of Venezuelan gay advocacy organizations that I visited made any mention of the group's efforts.

But, if recent history is right, while the measure might receive nominal support from some legislators, don't hold your breath for Chávez to do anything about it or use his extensive political power to do anything significant for the LGBT community in Venezuela anytime soon.


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But isn't it amazing that countries like Venezuela are talking about gay marriage and gays in the military without nearly as much squabble as we are here?

A heterosexual co-worker of mine, who grew up in Chile, recently remarked that the latino/a community is moving more quickly on LGBT acceptance than most other groups. In Cuba, the author Alice Walker has been enormously successful in working with Fidel Castro's niece to push for greater acceptance of LGBT Cubans, with some good results.

Latin America has elected an agnostic single mother (in Chile) to head one country, and another progressive female candidate is poised to helm the Argentine government soon. By comparison, the United States has a lot of ground work to do in order to catch up with our neighbors to the south.