Photo Jonathan Blair

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Conservative revolutionaries

It is striking how utterly NOT progressive Latin American leftist leaders can be on gender and drug issues, from Castro to Ortega and Chavez.

Castro's well-documented repression of homosexuals is probably the most extreme case, but there are others. A surprising one is the Sandinistas' opposition to abortion. There is a famous anecdote to that effect. In the mid-eighties, a global feminist gathering took place in Managua to express solidarity with the threatened revolution in the face of US support for the contras. Daniel Ortega was the guest of honour at a big gala held during the conference. He was accompanied by his wife, poet Rosario Murillo, then pregnant, and five of their children, including a few from previous marriages. During question period, one of the visitors asked when the government would legalize abortion, to which Daniel, after making a reference to the need to sustain the war effort, said "La mujer nicaraguense va a cumplir con su deber reproductivo," i.e. "Nicaraguan women will comply with their reproductive duty." The answer obviously met with dead silence from the feminist audience, but no doubt in the name of revolutionary solidarity, they kept quiet and the whole thing would subsequently be censored from newspaper accounts of the meeting. All but one account, that is, though a very cryptic for anyone not in the know. At the time, a group of young Sandinista artists and intellectuals were publishing a small weekly called La Semana Comica, very funny, liberal and iconoclastic. The edition that followed the meeting featured a huge centerfold black-and-white photo of a long line of naked pregnant women, seen in profile. Below it, was the slogan of the Sandinista's women mass organization, AMNLAE: "We are AMLAE". I don't know if that hastened the fall of La Semana Comica, which stopped publication a bit later. Given how popular it was with the intellectual rank and files of the Front, my hunch is the economic crisis killed it, not the government, but who knows. Very clearly, however, this one must have irked Daniel and his cronies.

The latest bout of leftist moralism is almost as pathetic: the satiric "Family Guy" program has been banned from Venezuelan TV. Chavez's Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami said he was shocked by an episode's section called "A bag of weed" which is an hilarious plea for pot legalization that has gone viral on the web. The problem for Mr. El Aissami, obviously, is that most people watching the program can find it in cyberspace and probably do it already anyway. Good for them.