September 2, 2015 at 6:01 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Trans woman running for Venezuelan National Assembly

Tamara Adrián, Venezuelan National Assembly, gay news, Washington Blade

Tamara Adrián, a transgender lawyer from Caracas, would be the first openly LGBT person elected to the Venezuelan National Assembly if she were to win her race later this year. (Photo courtesy of Tamara Adrián)

A transgender lawyer could become the first openly LGBT member of the Venezuelan National Assembly if voters elect her later this year.

Popular Will, a left-leaning pro-LGBT party that is a member of Socialist International, an association of Socialist political parties from around the world, tapped Tamara Adrián to run as a candidate to represent Caracas, the South American country’s capital, in the National Assembly. The Coalition for Democratic Unity, a group of 26 opposition parties that includes Popular Will, accepted Adrián’s candidacy.

The National Electoral Council, which oversees Venezuelan elections, on Aug. 7 formally registered Adrián’s candidacy. The trans commercial lawyer who specializes in foreign investments and capital and commodity markets is the second of four candidates on the ballot in the Federal District, which includes roughly half of Caracas and several suburbs, for the elections that will take place on Dec. 6.

Adrián told the Washington Blade last month during a Skype interview from Caracas that the campaign will not be easy, especially because the Venezuelan capital remains a stronghold of the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela that President Nicolás Maduro heads. Adrián nevertheless said she expects to do well.

“What we expect is that at least I will be certainly elected at least as the alternate of the first (person) on the list,” she told the Blade, referring to the incumbent assemblymember whose name appears at the top of the ballot. “If I run hard and if the people actually vote in favor of the opposition as all the surveys are showing that it will be the case, I might have the opportunity to be the principal.”

Adrián told the Blade the only opposition she has received thus far has come from members of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela known as Chavistas, supporters of late-President Hugo Chávez who preceded Maduro.

She said the Chavistas have accused her of coopting their efforts in support of LGBT rights, even though she noted the United Socialist Party has done little to advance them in the 17 years it has been in power.

“Every time we try to get a chance before the National Assembly or whatever, we only receive silence,” Adrián told the Blade. “Then suddenly the opposition puts this candidature in the mainstream, and they change the game.”

Adrián said the Chavistas have called her a “mutant” and accused her of being “hypocritical.” She told the Blade that she has also had to take security precautions while on the campaign trail, in part because of the rhetoric directed against her party.

“It is necessary to take care,” said Adrián. “But I know that I have to be in this position because you cannot in certain conditions not take your responsibility in your hands.”

Economic crisis, political turmoil overshadows campaign

Adrián would join a handful of other openly trans elected officials in Latin America if voters elect her to the National Assembly. These include Luisa Revilla Urcia, who won a seat on the local council in the Peruvian city of La Esperanza last October, and Adela Hernández, who in 2012 became the first openly trans person to hold public office in Cuba when she became a member of the Caibarién Municipal Council.

Adrián’s campaign is taking place against the backdrop of an economic crisis that has left Venezuela with a chronic shortage of basic goods and growing political and social instability. Leopoldo López, the leader of Popular Will who remains in jail, was on a 30-day hunger strike earlier this year to protest his detention.

Adrián told the Blade that toilet paper and chicken are among the many products that are in short supply in the oil-rich country. She said the only way she was able to have meat in her home was because she was able to purchase it three months ago and freeze it.

“People are standing in line for hours — eight, nine hours in order to buy a chicken or to buy some meat,” Adrián told the Blade. “It’s a very difficult environment from an economic point of view and it has to be addressed from the Parliament.”

Adrián said she feels Venezuelan lawmakers will become more receptive to LGBT-specific issues if the opposition gains seats in the National Assembly. She nevertheless said resolving the country’s economic crisis remains a top priority once the elections take place.

“There are so many other problems that we are facing,” said Adrián. “Venezuela has to be reconstructed from the very bottom.”

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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