On December 1, 2007, two dozen heavily armed police staged a raid on a Jewish community center in Caracas where hundreds were celebrating a wedding. The police, the Venezuelan equivalent of the FBI, claimed to be seeking weapons and evidence of "subversive activity."
They found no weapons. As for subversive activity, well, in a proto-authoritarian state like Hugo Chavez's Venezuela, subversion is a very elastic concept. The mildest skepticism about Chavez's regime might easily qualify.
This bit of harassment theater was only the latest in a series of worrying moves by the Chavez government against its Jewish citizens. The same community center had been raided in 2004, in the morning hours when children were being bussed to school. The regime -- which boasts of cozy friendships with Ahmadinejad's Iran and Castro's Cuba -- has also engaged in steady anti-Semitic and anti-Israel propaganda. A little more than a year ago, Chavez declared in a Christmas Eve speech that "the world has wealth for all, but some minorities, the descendants of the same people that crucified Christ, have taken over all the wealth of the world."
During the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel, Chavez became increasingly shrill, accusing the Israelis of behaving like Nazis. On a recent visit to Washington D.C., Gustavo Aristegui, the shadow foreign minister in Spain's opposition party, told a group at the Hudson Institute that Hamas and Hezbollah are now operating freely in Venezuela. Publications by the government's ministry of culture have featured titles like "The Jewish Question" with cover art showing a Star of David superimposed over a swastika. Jews were accused of complicity in the murder of a prosecutor. An article in a leading newspaper, El Diario de Caracas, asked whether it would become necessary "to expel [the Jews] from the country."
Most recently, as the Forward has reported, Chavez has used the government-run television channel to engage in "lengthy rants about the presence of Mossad agents allegedly in the country working to unseat the Chavez regime with the support of the United States and opposition forces in Venezuela." The program's host interrupted to ask about the loyalty of Jews to Venezuela.
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