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Jewish Representatives Meet with Venezuela's President Chávez

Merida, September 17th, 2010 ( – Yesterday President Hugo Chavez and members of the Venezuelan government met with representatives of the country’s Jewish community, who raised some concerns and the possibility of re-establishing relations with Israel.

During the meeting, Chavez repeated what he has said on previous occasions, especially in response to opposition claims that he is against the Jewish community, “They have tried to wage a little campaign that I’m anti-Jew, an enemy of the Jews... the reality is we respect and care about the Jewish community”.

After the meeting Foreign Relations Minister Nicolas Maduro said relations with the Jewish community were in “optimum shape”.

“We respect the customs of all our communities and the religious customs of all the groups who, in Venezuela, have freedom and equality,” said Maduro The president of the Venezuelan Confederation of Israeli Associations (CAIV) Salomon Cohen, said the meeting took place in a framework of brotherhood and spirituality. Head Rabbi, Isaac Cohen, was also present.

“We have talked with total sincerity. We presented our objections and we offered our information. We have received a promise to look over the information we gave him from President Chavez,” said Salomon Cohen. Cohen said his organisation had good communication with Maduro, “We talk about once or twice a week with him... we feel that we have good relations”.

Salomon Cohen also said there were three main points that came out of the meeting, the first regarding some modifications that the news analysis program Dossier, transmitted by the government channel VTV, needs to make, and about the presence of anti-Semitic information in Venezuela.

The second point was in relation to re-establishing relations with Israel, which Venezuela ended in January last year to protest Israel’s attacks on the Gaza strip and its refusal to abide by recent UN resolutions. The move followed the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador and large demonstrations outside the Israeli embassy in Caracas.

The third point the Jewish community rose was about deepening the mechanisms of security for the Jewish community and decreasing crime rates. After the meeting CAIV put out a press release on its site where it explained some of the issues it had raised, expressing concern for “anti Jewish terms used for many years in the government media” and asking the president to intervene to prevent such expressions.

Venezuelan government media has often criticised the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestine, sometimes referring to it as a Zionist policy. The government, in statements, has criticised “Israel’s state terrorism” and called the government of Israel “genocidal”.

The CAIV statement concluded, “We are certain that this new dialogue with President Chavez will bring positive results for coexistence, peace, and harmony for all of Venezuelan society.”

“We want to thank... Maduro... and we’re grateful for the security that they have given us in our synagogues and religious centres,” Saloman Cohen said.

The Venezuelan government has pledged its support for the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state, and many people on a local and international level have celebrated Venezuela’s solidarity with the Palestinian struggle. Israel has also opposed Venezuela’s growing economic and political relationship with Iran.

Shortly after Venezuela withdrew its ambassador from Israel, in February, a synagogue in Caracas was vandalised and robbed. Chavez and Maduro both condemned the attacks, ratified their “respect” for the Jewish community in Venezuela, and rejected the international campaign suggesting the Venezuelan government promoted anti-Semitism.

The Jewish community in Venezuela is largely based in Caracas, with some living in Maracaibo, and numbers around 16,000.

Published on Sep 19th 2010 at 11.54am