Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez Dead at 58

The three-term president had "nothing against homosexuals," but still had an uneven history with gay rights.

BY Michelle Garcia

March 05 2013 7:11 PM ET

Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez died in Caracas on Tuesday after a two-year battle with cancer, according to Vice President Nicolas Maduro. He was 58.

Chávez was re-elected in October to a third six-year term in office, but was so ill that he missed his Jan. 10 swearing-in ceremony, according to the Washington Post.

In 2008, Chávez reportedly cancelled a Cyndi Lauper concert because of her pro-gay support, and he had a fear of political protests.

When an op-ed in a Spanish newspaper appeared in 2007, questioning Chávez's  sexual orientation, Chávez balked.

"I've been accused of everything," he said. "The only thing they haven't accused me of being [is] homosexual. Well, now they've started to accuse me of being homosexual. I don't have anything against homosexuals because I respect whichever human condition, but the thing is: I consider myself sufficiently macho to pulverize any accusation along those lines."

Chávez also shared his thoughts on marriage equality at a film festival in 2009. Though the interview was edited, a translation of his views, from Andrés Duque at Blabbeando, were as follows: 

"I believe that... look, each country has its customs, no? At least, in Venezuela, it is not well-regarded, no? But there are societies, there are societies, there are ideas which continue to mature [EDIT] ...what I am indeed against is any persecution against anyone based on sexual orientations...Now, [as far as gay marriage]... The same as Venezuelans, as the majority of Venezuelans, those of us who don't see it as being good...it's a state of opinion, it's a state of opinion. Which doesn't mean we are in opposition, that I am in opposition of what you might think."

According to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex Association, constitutional antidiscrimination laws are in effect, and consensual same-sex relationships are legal. Aside from that, gay men are not allowed to donate blood at all, it is unclear whether LGBT people can serve openly in the military, and marriage equality is not legal.

Chávez started as a soldier and revolutionary who found himself at odds with American leaders on fiscal policy, energy, and the distribution of wealth. Chávez defied a U.S.-led opposition to trade with Cuba and Iran. He frequently blamed American foreign policy and capitalism for widespread blight in South America. He also called President George W. Bush "the devil" and said that former British Prime Minister Tony Blair was "an imperialist pawn who attempts to curry favor" with the U.S.

Log Cabin Republicans in the United States issued a statement calling Chavez an "authoritarian oppressor" who is the antithesis of everything Americans stand for, while expressing "hope that tomorrow will mark the dawn of a new era for the people of Venezuela."

"He burdened the people of his nation under a yoke of socialism and its false promise of prosperity," said Gregory T. Angelo, Log Cabin's executive director. "Chavez’s vocal disrespect of our country, disdain for our allies abroad, and dangerous empowerment of nations who regularly kill gay individuals — or individuals merely suspected of being gay — is his unfortunate legacy."

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