Leaked documents published on an Argentinean website show that Venezuela’s intelligence service SEBIN has been spying on Venezuela’s small Jewish community as well as on organizations that do business with Israel.
The Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) National Director Abraham Foxman said he is “deeply troubled” by the reported policy and condemned it in a statement:
Venezuela under the regime of Hugo Chavez has a history of harassing the Jewish community in that country. It is chilling to read reports that the SEBIN received instructions to carry out clandestine surveillance operations against members of the Jewish community, as described in detail in documents leaked by the Argentinean web site, Analisis24.
In a country where the government and some of its followers have publicly accused the Jewish community of disloyalty and where the community’s institutions and houses of worship have been attacked, reports of this kind of surveillance add fuel to an already incendiary atmosphere inciting prejudice and hate. For more than a decade, elements of the Venezuelan government-run media and the so-called “alternative” media operated by Chavez government supporters have regularly engaged in spreading anti-Jewish conspiracy theories and promoting anti-Semitic stereotypes.
During the presidential elections in October, President Hugo Chavez employed anti-Semitic barbs to vilify his opponent Henrique Capriles Radonski, a Catholic of Jewish descent. A Tel Aviv University report examining the election campaign described Chavez’s methods which included: “defamation, intimidation and conspiracy theories, many of which portray Capriles as a Zionist agent, and by mixing classic and neo-antisemitism.”
American Jewish organizations including the ADL and Simon Wiesenthal Center slammed Chavez’s efforts to suggest his opponent was disloyal due to his Jewish roots. The Simon Wiesenthal Center pointed to a column on the state-run Radio Nacional de Venezuela’s website which described the Jewish ancestry of opposition leader Radonski only to then label him a secret follower of Zionism, a movement the website described as “the most rotten sentiments represented by humanity.”
Abraham Foxman of the ADL said then: “Blatant and persistent anti-Semitism is used by President Chavez and his government apparatus as a divisive political tool.”
“What we are seeing at the outset of Venezuela’s presidential elections is an attempt to cast the opposition candidate as a ‘traitorous Jew’ who is unworthy of the presidency,” he added.
The ADL provides more detail on the Argentinean news report:
The Analisis24 article suggests there is an official government policy targeting Venezuela’s Jewish community. We strongly condemn these dangerous intimidation tactics and call on the current leadership of the Venezuelan government to immediately cease targeting the Jewish community.
The Analisis24 report, which has since been republished on at least one web site Venezuela, included several documents, mainly from 2010, with specific, private and official information about Jewish Venezuelans. For instance, among the documents posted are the official passport information of members of an NGO related to Holocaust remembrance, including all entry and exits from the country and where the members traveled.
Since Chavez came to power in 1999, there has been an upsurge in anti-Semitism in the Latin American country while its president has forged warm ties with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a leader who has stated his desire to destroy Israel.
Not surprisingly, during Chavez’s reign, the Jewish community has dwindled from 30,000 to just 9,000.