The shockwaves of asinine homophobic statements, so frequently uttered by Latin America’s male chauvinists, reached the early stages of Venezuela’s presidential campaign when the official candidate, Nicolás Maduro, made a boastful, retrograde claim about his own manhood as opposed to the alleged homosexuality of the opposition contender, Henrique Capriles. The Chávez man exalted heterosexuality with all the forcefulness of a government decree, and his efforts were widely applauded. “I have a wife, do you hear? I like women. And here she is,” he proclaimed, as he officially signed up as a candidate to the presidency. And then he kissed his wife and caressed her hair with theatrical delight. “Kiss, kiss, kiss!” the multitude cried out.
It is not the first time that the heir to the recently deceased Hugo Chávez has had to offer explanations and apologies after turning homosexuality into an insult. Nearly a year ago, in April 2012, while observing the 10th anniversary of the failed oil coup, the then-chancellor Maduro attacked opposition leaders, calling them “marinconsones” (fags). Cilia Flores, the attorney-general of the republic, Robert Serra, a deputy, and Maripili Hernández, the minister for youth affairs, were just three of several high-ranking officials who applauded this belch. Stimulated by this kind of support, it was not long before a pro-government altar boy “accused” Capriles on state television of maintaining homosexual relations inside a car 13 years earlier.
Cultural machismo is a pervasive blot on Latin American society – from the Rio Bravo down to Tierra del Fuego
The laws of the Bolivarian nation respect the sexual orientation of its citizens, although legislation that guarantees this respect has yet to be developed. However, cultural machismo is a pervasive blot on Latin American society – from the Rio Bravo down to Tierra del Fuego. Homophobia and its associate condition, machismo, are not the exclusive attributes of Venezuela’s Neanderthals, many specimens of which are to be found within the government bloc and the opposition. Rather, it persists all across Latin American societies. Spanish heritage played a role in consolidating testosterone as a cultural relic. Argentina legalized same-sex marriage, but the gay community still has to rent out catacombs in the “revolutionary” Nicaragua, and beg for forgiveness in Panama, where homosexuality was a crime and a mental illness until 2008.
Not much can be expected in the way of cultural progress from Venezuela, Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador or Costa Rica as long as the statements and actions of some of their leaders remain firmly grounded in the 19th century, contravening all gender equality conventions signed by these very same governments. In April 2006, the deputy secretary for Venezuela’s Episcopal Conference, Jorge Piñango, was found dead in a Caracas hotel. He was murdered by the young man with whom he was having a homosexual relationship, and who was later arrested, according to the police. In a press conference, former attorney-general and former ambassador to Spain Isaías Rodríguez mentioned the priest’s “morality” as a factor to take into account to explain the murder.
Sexual diversity is a taboo subject in several Latin American countries, including Venezuela
Sexual diversity is also a taboo subject in several Latin American countries, including Venezuela, which, despite radical political and constitutional changes under Bolivarian hegemony, has yet to debate equality laws, not to mention public policies on health, security, education and labor issues. Candidate Maduro is attempting to pass himself off as the reincarnation of his adored Chávez, but he’s on the wrong track because the leader from Barinas, who was not exactly a tolerant man himself, never attacked the gay community, even though he never worked for their rights, either.
And what was Capriles’ reaction to all this? Since homophobes are rife on the voter rolls, the single 40-year-old lawyer declared himself to be a womanizer and waxed poetic about the beauties to be found in the state of Carabobo. “Sometimes I stop here and I have a few young women standing in front of me and I start to stare at them and I lose my focus. That is my weakness. I am telling the whole country, right here and now, that women are my weakness,” he asserted.
It is possible that women will be the undoing of Henrique Capriles, or Nicolás Maduro, or any other Latin American candidate, but if it is not, any public statement to the contrary is highly unlikely, since male chauvinism could withdraw its support at the polls, much like those parents who are more willing to accept a daughter who turns out to be a whore than one who turns out to be a lesbian.