Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hugo Chavez Fans Anti-Semitic Flames in Venezuela

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez's defiant ideological stance against the United States and in particular former-president George W. Bush reveals a man with an unquestioned grasp of the power of the media.

He garnered worldwide media attention after calling Bush "The Devil" at the United Nations. He openly denounced Bush's Iraq War policy and sought to align the world's poorest nations in opposition to US foreign policy.

When skyrocketing oil prices in 2004 pumped billions of dollars into the Venezuelan economy, Chavez defiantly thumbed his nose openly at Washington by shipping free heating oil to poor urban residents in the Bronx and other areas in the United States during the winter months.

He has hosted Hollywood admirers like Sean Penn and Danny Glover.

But according to a February 12th New York Times article long-held accusations of anti-Semitism leveled against him have once again surfaced amidst a recent wave of violence against Jewish-owned businesses, synagogues and other property after Chavez denounced Israel for their actions in the Gaza War.

He expelled the Israeli ambassador then demanded that the members of Venezuela's Jewish population denounce the leaders of Israel's government as "assassins." When a synagogue was desecrated with anti-Semitic slurs on January 31, Chavez brazenly dismissed the attacks as the work of Israel's intelligence wing the Mossad - despite a report from the Venezuelan attorney general that 5 members of the Venezuelan police and an intelligence operative were arrested in connections with the attacks.

State-sponsored anti-Semitism? Chavez's positions on Jews go back well before 2009; one of his closest advisers in the 90's was Norberto Ceresole, an Argentinian sociologist recognized by many as a fascist and an anti-Semite.

To his credit Chavez offered aid to residents of New Orleans in the wake of Katrina and actively campaigned on the part of the poor in his own country; but that's not a blank check to dredge up anti-Jewish rhetoric in an attempt to tap anti-Semitic feelings in his nation.

His recent actions leave cause to wonder if those efforts to help blacks in the US were sincere, or just clever media spin employed to solidify his own power. For someone who accuses the Israelis of acting like Nazis, Chavez certainly seems to have the lessons of the Third Reich's resident spin-meister Josef Goebbels down to a tee.

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