The LGBTI community of Caracas observed the 14th Annual Pride Weekend with at least two separate demonstrations. Despite their disunity, the National Assembly (AN) announced they would debate some of the demands of the LGBTI movement. Today, Juan Carlos Alemán, a socialist party deputy, told the press that the Permanent Commission on Domestic Politics of the AN would institute workshops to consider the demands of the LGBTI movement.
Both marches received permits from the authorities, although there was a large presence of armed, shielded police and national guard at both events. Perhaps the military aimed to protect marchers from homophobic attacks. Or perhaps the display of force was in response to rumors that right-wing guarimberos had planned a provocation from inside or outside the march. In any case, the streets of Caracas remained peaceful for both the June 28th and June 29th events.
Saturday, June 28
Venezuela Diversa is a coalition committed to defending the human rights of LBGTI people that maintains its independence from political parties. It includes Alianza Sexo Genero Diversa Revolutionario (ASGDRe), the Ejercito Emancipador, the Diversity Group of the Venezuelan Bolivarian University (UBV), the Divas of Venezuela and other socialists. It announced on its blog, “with sadness”, that for the second year in a row, irreconcilable differences with Lambda Venezuela, the organization that “owned” the Pride Parade, made a unified march impossible. It affirmed that both organizations consider themselves generally “pro-government.”
Its blog went on to enumerate the challenges the LGBTI community faces: (1) An estimated 6000 same- gender families—with and without children— have no legal protection. (2) Between 2009-2013 they recorded 91 homophobic hate crimes that included murder and kidnapping. (3) Discrimination prevails against LBGTI people and their children in school, employment, health care, and on television. (4) Religious groups still have an outsized influence on the legislature. (They did not mention this religious influence as a potential source of unity with womens’ organizations who face similar opposition to legalizing abortion.)
On Saturday, Venezuela Diversa planned to march from Plaza Venezuela to the Capitol to present their demands to the Vice President. However, since barely 30 people showed up, they decided to stay at the end of the Plaza opposite a huge TV monitor broadcasting a Fifa soccer match. There, under each traffic light, they posted several people carrying posters that demanded marriage equality.
Venezuelanalysis.com asked Simon, a member of ASGDRe, why they decided to organize a demonstration separate from the Sunday event. In his opinion, the Sunday march had embraced commercialism and entertainment and refused to use their greater numbers to educate or struggle for human rights. Then, before the June 28 gathering dispersed, they huddled to discuss whether they would join the June 29th march. They did not reach consensus. The ASGDre and some of the other revolutionary-identified people decided to boycott it. An Afrodescendant lesbian couple—both professionals who work for the government — planned to attend. “We go every year. We won’t let some rumors stop us.”
The night before, at a gathering of independent and socialist revolutionaries, people also debated whether to attend the Sunday March. They believed the rumors that “fascists would infiltrate the march, form barricades or attack known Chavistas.”
Sunday, June 29
Ironically, the day before the Sunday march, the Chavista press gave favorable publicity to the event. The government-sponsored Venezuelan Press Agency (AVN) announced the route of the march and its demands: marriage equality, a special public prosecutor’s office to process complaints about violations of LBGTI human rights and a request that President Maduro establish a “Mission Igualdad” to develop laws and concrete public policies to combat homophobia and improve LBGTI access to existing social programs. Some such programs include initiatives aimed at promoting education, housing, health and employment.
On Sunday, an estimated 1500 people gathered at the park in the wealthy neighborhood of Miranda. They marched about two miles westward, down the wide boulevard lined with towering modern buildings, the headquarters of international capital that do business in Venezuela. Since it was Sunday, there were hardly any bystanders to observe the LGBTI crowd Some were in elaborate costumes, some in drag, many with rainbow scarves, hats, shirts and bras. Some men wore high-heeled stilettos, others feathers. It was a festive march and there was not a poster in sight—absolutely no sign of the demands AVN listed.
At the end of the march near Plaza Venezuela, the crowd overflowed the street that had been closed to traffic for a block party. Alcohol flowed. Some smoked marijuana. Although bands had been expected, at the height of the party, it was mostly personal players that supplied the music. There were no speeches or other signs to convey political demands of the gathering. People simply enjoyed being themselves without fear of homophobic harassment or attack.
It is possible that the AVN promoted the demands of the march that may have been publicized before the split. Or, there were rumors of a third march that went directly from Chacaito (midway between Miranda and Plaza Venezuela) to the National Assembly. However, Venezuelanalysis,com could not find any trace of that march. In any case, Deputy Alemán told the press that the struggle for equality for gender-diverse people requires persistence. On January 31, 2014, another coalition called Venezuela Igualitaria presented a petition with 20,000 signatures to the AN asking for a change in the Civil Code to legalize same-gender marriage. At the time, the deputies who received the petition indicated the AN would consider it. It is unclear what, if any, action was taken by the AN between January 31 and the current commitment made June 30, to establish a workshop to consider the proposal.