Chavez took the first round of hammering over alleged antisemitism at the early phase of his presidency in 1999 for his association with Argentinian political scientist and Peronist Norberto Rafael Ceresole who, in the early 1990ies, introduced the future Venezuelan leader to his Caudillo, Ejército, Pueblo (Leader, Army, Nation) doctrine of ascension to power.
Ceresole used to be a vehement critic of Israel’s policy in Palestine, denied Holocaust, and upheld a plan for a Venezuelan strategic intelligence service which he evidently expected to personally chair. It used to be an open secret that Mossad operatives kept the Venezuelan intelligence community on a short leash in the pre-Chavez epoch.
Even though they had to pack and go when the populist regime took over, deeply entrenched supporters of Israel in Venezuela’s state machine put up strong opposition to Ceresole’s presence in the country and representatives of the Jewish community of Venezuela showered its secret police DISIP with complaints that Ceresole, “a present-day Nazi”, presented a permanent problem.
At the time, Chavez was preoccupied with concentrating power and preparing Venezuela’s new constitution, and Ceresole’s deportation came as a foregone decision. DISIP agents saw Ceresole off to the airport, and he later told journalists that Zionists coerced him into leaving by murder threats.
Zionist forces took an active part in the 2002 anti-Chavez coup. Mass rallies and middle-class protests against the regime were orchestrated by the media which, with the exception of the state-run Channel 8, were uniformly Jewish-controlled. The distorted media coverage fanned unrest and left much of the population under an impression that Chavez and his inner circle were about to resort to armed force with the aim of retaining power.
In the settings, the shootout perpetrated by unidentified gunmen at the Llaguno Bridge, which led to fatalities among both Chavez’s supporters and opponents, was seen by a part of the population as the regime’s attempt to regain control at the cost of violence.
It is still unclear who the gunmen were, though, according to a fairly realistic hypothesis, they could be agents of the municipal police whose command sided with the opposition. An alternative hypothesis is that the gunmen were skilled snipers who came from abroad, which indeed used to be a recurrent scenario throughout the 1990ies era of “anti-terrorist” wars.
A major scandal erupted in January, 2006, when the Simon Wiesenthal Center demanded that Chavez apologize for an alleged anti-semitic statement.
At the Human Development Center of the Acevedo municipality in the state of Miranda Chavez dropped the phrase which triggered far-reaching consequences: “The world has an offer for everybody but it turned out that a few minorities – the descendants of those who crucified Christ, the descendants of those who expelled Bolivar from here and also those who in a certain way crucified him in Santa Marta, there in Colombia – they took possession of the riches of the world, a minority took possession of the planet’s gold, the silver, the minerals, the water, the good lands, the oil, and they have concentrated all the riches in the hands of a few; less than 10 percent of the world population owns more than half of the riches of the world”.
Though, upon scrutiny, nothing in the above seems to warrant the antisemitism charges, a smear campaign against the Venezuelan leader promptly broadened to encompass France’s Liberation and La Monde, Reuters and The Associated Press, The Voice of America, and myriads of Latin American rightist outlets.
Eventually, the Simon Wiesenthal Center had to admit, while still holding that Chavez should have used language chosen with greater care, that the passage contained nothing to the effect that Jews were responsible for crucifying Christ or grabbing most of the global wealth and that the invective was directed against the Venezuelan ruling class which expelled Simon Bolivar to Columbia and against the global system which indeed hands most of the existing wealth to 10% of the world’s population.
That did not spare Chavez new rounds of similar allegations which surfaced whenever he criticized Israel’s aggression against Lebanon or ruthless raids in the Gaza Strip.
Venezuela ordered Israeli ambassador Shlomo Cohen out on January 6, 2009 and broke off diplomatic relations with Israel on January 15 the same year, condemning the country’s Gaza Strip offensive in which the death toll, mostly among civilians, topped one thousand.
While Chavez expressed outrage at Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people, the Western propaganda relayed the news as further evidence of his hostility towards Jews as an ethnic group. An attack on a synagogue in Caracas took place as the story was unfolding.
According to a BBC account, “An armed gang has ransacked the oldest Jewish synagogue in the Venezuelan capital Caracas after occupying the building for several hours. About 15 unidentified men broke into the building before daubing graffiti on the walls and desecrating scriptures. They also called for Jewish people to be expelled from the country”.
BBC also quoted Venezuela’s Jewish leaders as saying that “The climate is very tense. We feel threatened, intimidated, attacked”. The Venezuelan government received an avalanche of criticisms while the police was in the process of investigating the incident.
Chairman of the Venezuelan Confederation of Israelite Associations, for example, maintained that the attack had been inspired by Chavez’s anti-Israeli position concerning the war in Palestine, and Jewish groups rallied in front of the UN office in Caracas with slogans about hate breeding hate, chanting the Venezuelan anthem, showing their Venezuelan passports to whoever walked by, and explaining that they were defending religious freedom.
Diplomats from the US, France, Canada, Finland, Germany, and the Czech Republic visited the synagogue to broadcast solidarity with the Venezuelan Jewish community, and a chorus of NGOs in Venezuela as well as from across Latin America and Europe leveled accusations at Chavez’s regime.
In the US, 16 congressmen jointly demanded that Chavez put an end to the intimidation of the local Jewish community. The idea common to all criticisms was that the act of vandalism was somehow blessed by the Venezuelan government.
The Venezuelan police, however, completed the investigation in a snap mode and, while the anti-Chavez campaign was still raging, Venezuelan minister of the interior Tarek El Aissami reported that the attack on the synagogue had been led by Edgar Alexander Cordero, a bodyguard for its rabbi Issac Cohen and an officer of the opposition-led metropolitan police.
The man’s accomplices were seven former police agents, two individuals with criminal records, and the synagogue’s guard. Cordero knew details of the synagogue’s security system and the guard switched off the alarm from within the building, while the anti-semitic graffiti and damage done to the scrolls were supposed to disguise an ordinary burglary and to implicate Colectivo La Piedrita, UPV or other groups of supporters of the Venezuelan regime.
In actuality, Cordero’s plan was to steal 200,000 bolivars from a safe. As it transpired, shortly before the break-in, Cordero asked rabbi Cohen to lend him the amount and felt deeply offended when the request had been turned down.
The Venezuelan Confederation of Israelite Associations praised the government’s handling of the case, but the majority of those who demonized Chavez over it pretended to stay unaware of their own blunder.
In fact, Chavez held several meetings with representatives of the Venezuelan Jewish community since becoming president, urging them not to give in to provocations. Chavez stresses that a real revolutionary cannot be an antisemite, and Jews in Venezuela, as legitimate citizens of the country, have nothing to worry about.
The Jewish community, however, appears to lack the immunity to the propaganda churned out by the US and Israeli agencies. The fictional stories about training camps for Arab terrorists in Venezuela, Chavez’s secret transactions with Iran, etc. caused the Venezuelan Jews to emigrate en masse. Opposition journalist Nelson Bocaranda says 60-80% of Venezuela’s Jews left the country during the past decade.
Recently the Venezuelan opposition convened primaries to nominate its presidential hopeful. The contest was convincingly won by Henrique Capriles Radonski, 40, a typical offshoot of a wealthy and privileged Jewish clan. Radonski, though, tends to emphasize on every occasion that he is a practicing Roman Catholic, which, across Latin America, is a prerequisite for buying a ticket to serious politics.
As a youngster, Radonski was an activist of a rightist sect known as Tradición, Familia y Propiedad (Tradition, Family and Property)”, and later took part in building, with the CIA financial support and in concert with his TFP colleagues, the oppositional Primero Justicia party. Radonski’s political extremism became manifest during the April, 2002 anti-Chavez coup.
At the time, he was the alcalde of Baruta, an affluent Caracas neighborhood which became the scene of a hunt for Chavez’s supporters. Radonski took part in the siege laid to the Cuban embassy when the insurgents demanded to be admitted to search the mission. Cubans brushed off the ultimatum and the guerrillas led by Radonski cut off the embassy communications and vandalized its cars.
Without pleading guilty, Radonski eventually spent several months in jail in connection with the episode, but managed to draw benefits from the twist in his career: like most of the active rioters, he fled to Miami.
The aporrea.org site featured a piece titled The Bolivarian Revolution Vs. the International Zionism describing the nomination of Radonski as an experiment carried out by the local bourgeois and the US imperialists, with the international Zionism as the basis.
The alliance is supposed to propel Zionists to power following the ouster of Chavez, assuming that the local bourgeois political cast will be lacking influence in its wake. Radonski, hypothetically the new president, should then help the Venezuelan bourgeois and the Jewish capitalists regain control in Venezuela.
The projection offered in the essay is that the rightist government will imminently carry out extreme repressions as the only way to suppress Chavez’s regime, the Bolivarian revolution, and the popular resistance.
At the moment Radonski, backed by the US and Israel, is bracing for the role of a killer of Chavez’s regime. The Zionist media, in the meantime, portray him as a liberal progressist, a left-centrist, and a humanist in the hope that the disguise will enable him to win in the upcoming struggle for power.
Nil NIKANDROV/ Strategic Culture Foundation