In the wake of Chavez

Perilous times lie ahead for Venezuela’s Jewish community, beset by the ghost of dictator Hugo Chavez, who died March 5

ahmadinejad and chavez 521 (photo credit: CARLOS GARCIA RAWLINS)
ahmadinejad and chavez 521
Once one of the proudest and most vibrant communities in the Americas, until 1999, when Hugo Chavez, El Comandante, (as he was and is still termed by his followers) became president, more than half of the country’s 20,000 Jews have since emigrated, mostly to Florida, Mexico, Spain and Israel.
But the exodus from Chavez was not only Jewish. Hope, freedom and jobs all disappeared as the economy was systematically destroyed – unemployment is now almost 10 percent and inflation is a resounding 25 percent (the average in Latin America is less than 5 percent).
The private sector has been crippled by sudden and arbitrary expropriations.
Venezuela boasted some 14,000 private companies when Chavez came to power; only half of them survived him. One of the wealthiest nations on earth, Venezuela used to export a wide variety of products, but today less than 4 percent of exported goods are non-oil products. El Comandante’s blustering almost-daily appearances on radio and TV couldn’t change this grim reality. And, on top of everything, Jews had to endure his unabashed and unpredictable hatred.
Judeophobia or anti-Semitism is a European export product that never thrived in the Americas – with the possible exception of Argentina, where anti-Jewish sentiment surfaced in a novel published after the 1889 stock exchange collapse, and where Nazi-type groups have been active at times.
Until 15 years ago, an article on Judeophobia in Latin America would have focused on Argentina, without mentioning Venezuela, which was almost free of Judeophobic myths at the time. But then Chavez came onto the scene. What started as sporadic slurs, which fitted in with Chavez’s radical anti-US rhetoric, slowly but surely became government policy. And when police raided the country’s main Jewish school in November 2004, it became clear that Chavez’s Judeophobic outbursts were not incidental. Pynchas Brener, the community’s chief rabbi, called it “the first-ever direct aggression against the community.”
The pretext for the assault was the search for evidence connected to the murder of a prosecutor. Allegedly, weapons were being smuggled into the school building from a nearby shooting range. By means of this fabrication, the government created a smokescreen of paranoia to hide the cesspool into which the country was sinking.
No weapons were found at the school, and the raid only stupefied hundreds of pupils and their teachers. But the venomous stories about the eternal conspirators had started to feed the imagination of the Venezuelan people. In his Christmas message for 2005, Chavez lamented that “the descendants of the people who crucified Christ have taken over the planet’s resources.” The national television channel echoed this libretto when an entire program in January 2006, was devoted to an attack against the Jews as “owners of the media.” Chavez encouraged such programs and never had to account for this, as he didn’t have any official contact with the Jewish community. He labelled his non- Jewish opponents “wandering Jews.”
The Judeophobic threat in Latin America has indeed shifted to Venezuela, and its mask is now less nationalism or Catholicism, and more Islamism and socialism. When Chavez was awarded the Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights in Tripoli in 2004, he promptly dedicated it to Palestinan leader Yasser Arafat. Chavez’s hatred of Jews can be traced to his advisor since 1994, Norberto Ceresole, a neo-Nazi, who died in 2004. Described as “an authentic revolutionary against the Yankee-Zionist World Order,” Ceresole trained at the Soviet Union’s School for War. Upon his return to his native Argentina, he zigzagged between the extreme left (the ERP guerrilla movement) and the extreme right (a group of officers led by Colonel Aldo Rico who plotted a fascist coup). Ceresole blended both extremes in his books, “The Caudillo, The Army and The People: The Venezuelan Model or Postdemocracy” (1999), in which he advises the people to delegate all power to a national-military leader; and “National Judaism: Post-Zionist Messianism” (1997), the prologue of which was penned by his mentor, Roger Garaudy. Both were Holocaust deniers, and Ceresole took this a step further by claiming that the 1994 terror attack against the AMIA in Buenos Aires had not taken place.
In fact Jewish and Israeli targets were brutally attacked in Argentina in 1992 and 1994, precisely by Chavez’s staunch ally, Iran. More than 100 people were killed in Buenos Aires, and hundreds more were injured. It is thanks to Chavez that Iran is not ostracized by Latin America (not even by Argentina, which has just signed an agreement with the ayatollahs).
He threw open the doors of the continent to Hezbollah, Iran’s lackey. A tribe of Venezuelan Indians has since converted to Islamism and runs a website promoting its ideology.
Chavez’s revered mentor, Fidel Castro, set a precedent in 1979, when he was the first to support the Islamic Revolution in Iran. Cuba and Iran later joined forces at the UN in a bid to expel Israel. Venezuela broke off relations with the Jewish state in 2009, and Chavez went as far as to curse Israel on TV. He saw himself as a world leader who was set to vanquish the United States and the West, with the help of Islam.
Chavez’s legacy is the deep Iranian penetration in Latin America and support for Bashar Assad’s massacres in Syria.
Venezuela is Iran’s international advocate.
Chavez’s disciple, Bolivian President Evo Morales, has declared his country an “unconditional ally” of Iran. A clandestine Iranian network, similar to the one that preceded the attacks against Argentina, is currently growing throughout the length and breadth of the continent.
Violence can be expected in Venezuela in the coming months, for two main reasons: First, the country has one of the highest inflation rates in the world.
The economy is close to bankruptcy and collapse is being held off by the high price of oil. If it drops, Venezuelans will be further impoverished and turmoil will break out.
Second, Venezuela has already become one of the most violent countries on the planet. The murder rate doubled during Chavez’s reign, mainly due to corruption and the breakdown of law and order. The biggest robberies were carried out by Chavez’s supporters. Two of his brothers have acquired at least 17 ranches at knockdown prices, using concealed names. And his political allies, who have amassed fortunes from confiscated lands and enterprises, won’t allow the rule of law to replace Chavez’s legacy. Drug-dealing generals like Henry Silva Rangel, who was minister of defence, have clearly stated that the army will not allow the “Socialist revolution” to end.
If Henrique Capriles, who is of Jewish ancestry, wins the Venezuelan elections, set for April 14, the phantom of Judeophobia will be a tool in the hands of rebellious chavistas (Chavez supporters). And if he doesn’t, Venezuela is doomed to suffer further corruption and decadence. The Israel-based author has lectured at universities in 50 countries and penned a dozen books, among them “Judeophobia” (2001) and “To Kill Without a Trace” (2009) about Iranian terror in Latin America.