With the death of Hugo Chavez last week, opposition candidate Henrique Capriles has come forward to address persistent anti-gay slurs directed at him from Chavez’ right hand man—and heir apparent—Nicolás Maduro.
Over the weekend, Capriles said:
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.
You cannot talk of inclusion if there is exclusion. There should be overwhelming rejection of something like that.
Maduro—who was Venezuela’s interim president while Chavez was being treated for cancer—called Capriles a “decadent prince of the parasitical bourgeoisie” at a rally last week. Maduro joked, “I don’t want to get involved in his personal life, but he’s in Manhattan with a [male] friend of confidence.”
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.
Last April, Maduro appeared at a rally in Caracas, where he called opponents of Chavez “fascist faggots.” The ministers and supporters present broke into riotous applause.
Even Venezuela’s official state television have gotten into the act: In 2012, state media commentator Mario Silva—who often targets Chavez’s foes on his talk show, The Razorblade, alleged police found Capriles in a car having sex with another man.
The 40-year-old Capriles, who is married, is a center-right candidate. He lost to Chavez in the most recent national elections, held in October.
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.
Venezuela president Hugo Chavez has his share of headaches: In addition to battling life-threatening cancer, he has to face pesky complaints that his administration is little more than a dictatorship.
So Chavez’s camp is lashing out at the opposition like fifth-graders: They’re calling them gay.