February 1, 2009 (venezuelanalysis.com)— Venezuela’s President Chávez, Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro, and Communications Minister Jesse Chacon all expressed their categorical condemnation of the vandalism of one of Venezuela’s main synagogues early Saturday morning.
The vandalism, in which a group of about 15 unidentified heavily armed individuals entered and systematically defaced the interior of the synagogue, was decried both internationally and in Venezuela by all sides.
The group subdued the two security guards of the synagogue, removed security video recordings, and disabled security cameras. They then spent over four hours in the area, spray painting anti-Israel and anti-Semitic slogans throughout the interior and threw sacred objects, such as the torah, to the ground.
The slogans said such things as “out, death to all” and “damn Israel, death.” Also, on the exterior of the synagogue, a week earlier, vandals had spray painted stars of David and swastikas, with an equal sign between the two.
Venezuela’s Minister of Communications and Information, Jesse Chacón, immediately denounced the attack, saying, “We reject all violent acts carried out against any group in Venezuela. We reject this action, no matter where it comes from.”
Chacón also announced that an investigation is being carried out to find out who is responsible, but rejected the implication transmitted by some of Venezuela’s private mass media that attribute the action to a group of Chávez supporters.
Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro also stated that the Venezuelan government “rejects and condemns” the acts of vandalism against the headquarters of the Israeli Association of Venezuela, where the synagogue is located.
Maduro went on to say, “We undertake, (…) on behalf of President Hugo Chávez, to investigate and present the results of such investigation, so we can put in prison those responsible for these delinquent acts.”
“With this we want to ratify all of our respect for the Jewish community in Venezuela. An international campaign has been produced to say that we [the Venezuelan government] promote anti-semitism,” added Maduro, which has no basis.
President Chávez also weighed in on the attack on Sunday. “We condemn the actions against the Synagogue of Caracas, just as we condemn the burning of the Avila, which the oligarchy does not condemn,” said Chávez, referring to a recent incident in which opposition students were filmed setting fire to the national park north of Caracas.
“We condemn violence, no matter where it comes from and we will fight it no matter where it comes from,” said Chávez.
Expressing doubt to some opposition accusations that Chávez supporters carried out the attack on the Synagogue, Chávez also said, “One should ask oneself, just as any police investigator should always do, ‘Who benefits from these acts of violence?’ It is not the government, nor the people, nor the revolution that benefits.”
Chavez went on to link the attack to the upcoming referendum on amending Venezuela’s constitution to eliminate the two-term limit on holding elected office.
Venezuela’s private media, though, were filled with opposition spokespersons that accused the Chávez government of being responsible for the attack. For example, the oppositional newspaper El Universal quoted a foreign policy expert, Maruja Tarre, as saying, “On state television there is a constant anti-semitism and attempts to equate the state of Israel with Hitler. Later, our government had the strongest reaction in the whole world [against Israel’s attack on Gaza] when it expelled its ambassador from Israel.”