Apr 26, 2013 3:17 PM GMT
We tend to think of mean-spirited homophobia as the political purview of right-wing conservatives. But Nicolás Maduro showed us that, in Venezuela at least, it can be one of socialism’s ugly undercurrents too. Maduro narrowly won Venezuela’s special presidential election on April 14; and though the votes are supposed to be recounted, he was sworn in last Friday to succeed his boss and demigod, socialist President Hugo Chávez, who died last month of cancer. Given the retro-machismo that still pervades his oil-rich South American nation, Maduro may have eked out his victory with the help of some old-fashioned gay-bashing: he made a point in his campaign of suggesting to voters that his centrist and unmarried opponent, Henrique Capriles, is a homosexual. “I do have a wife!” Maduro, who also called Capriles “a little princess,” roared at one rally. “I like women!”
Maduro has since said he’s not a homophobe. Whatever the case, his unabashed willingness to peddle that kind of bigotry on the trail, just as Chávez did last year during his own re-election campaign against Capriles, betrayed the reality that Chavista politics aren’t just bare-knuckled; they too often descend into knuckle-dragging. Yet such atavism is hardly confined to Venezuelan leftists. On Sunday, just a week after Venezuela’s contest, Paraguay elected as its new President a millionaire conservative, Horacio Cartes, who railed against gay marriage during his campaign as something “monkeys swinging from trees” do.