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Opinion and Analysis: International | Opposition

Venezuelan Opposition Promises “Renewal” for Venezuela-Israel Relations

Over the weekend, Venezuela’s anti-Chavez minority confirmed reports that one of their own recently met with right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and promised to re-establish ties with Israel if the opposition is somehow successful in this year’s presidential election. Speaking on behalf of the opposition’s socalled Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), Metropolitan Mayor of Caracas Antonio Ledezma is said to have promised both economic and political rewards in exchange for Israeli support of MUD presidential hopeful, Henrique Capriles Radonski.

Though the MUD have been totally unable to improve their standing in polls which predict a sweeping electoral victory for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez this October 7, Ledezma’s comments in Israel provide a troubling glimpse at wishful opposition thinking in a post-Chavez period.

“SOLIDARITY” WITH ISRAEL?

Though he was in Jerusalem last week for the 28th International Mayors Conference, opposition lawyer and politician Antonio Ledezma took advantage of his publicly-financed trip to meet privately with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as the country’s Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman. Asked about the closed-door meetings, Ledezma said  he had used his time in Israel to spread “the message that the Venezuelan nation has respect for Israel”.

Ledezma told reporters he spoke with Netanyahu and Liberman about “the Venezuelan people’s solidarity with the Jewish community” and, “in addition, our (opposition) disposition to reestablish relations with the State of Israel under a new government presided by Henrique Capriles Radonski”.

“In contrast to the current political policy in Venezuela”, he said, “Capriles will re-establish our historical ties”.

Not needing to say so openly, Ledezma’s reference to “historical ties” includes both the United States and Israel, in contrast to Chavez administration policies favoring relations with the entirety of the Global South, including China, Russia, Iran and Cuba, to name just a few.

Pleased with the opposition spokesman, and in direct reference to the Chavez administration, Israel’s Foreign Minister responded to Ledezma’s comments by stating, “nations in the global village of today need reasonable governments that help encourage cooperation among peoples”.

Guaranteeing an opposition victory, Ledezma added that “our people, who don’t know how to mistreat, who value peace and love for one’s neighbor, mustn’t be confused with the decisions of an intemperate administration which has broken our historical relations and is on its way out”. 

The right-wing mayor, who withdrew from opposition primaries for lack of electoral potential, told Israeli media he believed “the opposition’s chances are equal (to Chavez’s) and even greater, mostly because it is bringing a message of renewal to all of Venezuela”. Ledezma added that he hopes “the current government will allow for democratic elections”.

President Chavez, who holds a double-digit lead against Capriles Radonski in every poll taken to date, instructed his government to break relations with Israel after the Israeli military killed some 1,500 Palestinians and wounded another 5,000 during its 2009 siege on Gaza.

At that time, the Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a press release stating that “Israel has repeatedly ignored the calls of the United Nations, consistently and shamelessly violating the resolutions approved by overwhelming majorities of member countries, increasingly placing itself on the margin of international law” and added that “Israel’s state terrorism has cost the lives of the most vulnerable and innocent: children, women, and the elderly”.

During his 3-day trip to Israel, the opposition’s Ledezma made no mention of Israel’s segregationist policies towards the Palestinians, the widely-condemned but ongoing blockade against those in Gaza, nor did he question the inhuman prison conditions currently under international scrutiny as several Palestinian hunger strikers near death.  

PROMISING RESOURCES

Late last week, Venezuelan philosopher and TV journalist Miguel Angel Perez Pirela denounced the meeting between Ledezma and the Israeli Prime Minister, calling it “further evidence” of opposition plans to “destabilize” the country. Pirela reminded viewers that MUD spokesmen have now met with former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, with right-wing members of the anti-Chavez community in Southern Florida, and, now, with Israel’s Netanyahu.

Pirela explained that Ledezma spent tax-payer funds to finance his trip to Israel, and used his time in the Middle East to request Israeli support for MUD presidential hopeful Capriles Radonski. In exchange for support, he said, Israel was promised “access to the country’s resources” if the opposition were to somehow take this year’s presidential election.

“He who doesn’t want to see has the right not to; he can joke things off and accuse us of paranoia”, said Pirela, “but this smells rotten”.

“There are strong signs that they [opposition figures] are showing us the exact location from which the bullets will be fired”, he said, suggesting recent opposition meetings in Colombia, Miami, Florida, and Israel are evidence of a larger opposition strategy  to destabilize Venezuela with international support.

With respect to Israel, in December 2011 and with no evidence to back his assertions, Israeli Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya´alon accused Venezuela of working with Iran to create a “terrorist infrastructure” across the Americas that could be used to “attack the interests of the United States”.

In response to his statements, Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry affirmed, “such abusive and tendentious statements, which come from the representative of a government that itself participates in terrorist attacks against the Arab peoples, are part of a continuous campaign of aggression against our people”.

DEFENDING REVOLUTION

Speaking at a pro-Chavez rally on Friday, Mayor of the Caracas Libertador Municipality and head of the Chavez re-election campaign Jorge Rodriguez denounced the opposition’s international positioning. In the border state of Tachira backing grassroots efforts to re-elect Venezuela’s socialist President, Rodriguez accused Capriles Radonski of traveling to Colombia “to seek advice from known drug trafficker and confessed paramilitary figure, (former President) Alvaro Uribe”.

Rodriguez told those gathered, “the lazy Mayor of Caracas, Mayor Ledezma, recently made his way to Israel and is also meeting with representatives of the extreme right”.

“They’ve already lost hope in winning the election”, Rodriguez  affirmed,  “but if they try taking the path of destabilization they’ll face the people and homeland, ready to defend the Revolution”.