In the wake of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s death Tuesday, Jewish groups have expressed concern for the future of Venezuela’s Jewish community.
“The passing of Chavez brings Venezuela to a crossroads,” Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman told The Jerusalem Post. “Will the country continue with the Chavista policies of repression, political manipulation and alliances with Iran, or will there be a new openness and true participatory democracy for the people of Venezuela?”
The Venezuelan Jewish community under Chavez “was a target of anti-Semitism, permitted and even encouraged by the Chavez regime and its supporters,” Foxman added.
“Intimidation of the Jewish community was commonplace and Jewish religious and communal institutions were desecrated, vandalized and even investigated by the police without justification. Chavez would use the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians to accuse the Venezuelan Jewish community of disloyalty to Venezuela if they did not denounce Israel,” he said.
According to Claudio Epelman, executive director of the Latin American Jewish Congress, “Jewish communities worldwide have two main concerns with the Venezuelan government: One, more symbolic, is the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with the State of Israel, something the Jews from Venezuela see as very meaningful. The second one, more essential, is its relationship with Iran.”
“For the Jewish world, President Chavez leaves a mixed legacy. He broke off diplomatic relations with Israel and fostered close ties with the Iranian regime,” said Latin American Jewish Congress and World Jewish Congress presidents Jack Terpins and Ronald Lauder, who expressed hope that the Venezuelan leadership “would continue its dialogue with the Jewish community in order to improve the difficult situation of Jews in the country and internationally.”
B’nai B’rith International told JNS.org that it “hopes for a positive democratic outcome and for peace for the people of Venezuela in the wake of the death of Hugo Chavez.”