Chavez condemns synagogue attack

In televised speech, Venezuelan president suggests his political foes responsible for the vandalism.

venezuela anti-semitism synagogue 248 88 (photo credit: AP)
venezuela anti-semitism synagogue 248 88
(photo credit: AP)
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Sunday condemned a recent attack on a Caracas synagogue, suggesting that his political foes were responsible for the incident. An armed group vandalized Caracas' oldest synagogue, shattering religious objects and spray-painting walls on Friday amid Venezuela's diplomatic spat with Israel over its military offensive in the Gaza Strip. "We condemn the actions on the synagogue of Caracas," Chavez said in a televised speech. "Who benefits from these violent incidents? It is not the government, nor the people, nor the revolution," he said. The president suggested instead that Venezuela's "oligarchy" - wealthy power brokers who oppose his socialist government - could have been behind the attack. A group of people - reports run as high as 15 - broke into Caracas's Sephardic synagogue late on Friday, held the guard at gunpoint, wreaked havoc on the building and damaged the Torah scrolls. Before leaving at around 3 a.m., the vandals scrawled "Death to the Jews" and "We don't want Jews here" on the synagogue's walls. The damage was discovered by community members on Saturday morning. The guard was found on the floor, one community leader said. The suggestion of government sanction for the attack was heard many times from Venezuelan Jews over the weekend, though most of them would not speak on the record. In a January 6 interview with Venezuela's state-run VTV television network, Chavez called on the Venezuelan Jewish community to "declare itself against this barbarity," Israel's recent offense against Hamas in Gaza.