20 September 2010
The leadership of Venezuela’s Jewish community has met with President Hugo Chávez. The Jewish leaders raised the problem of anti-Semitism in state-owned media and asked Chávez to restore diplomatic relations with Israel. During a meeting at the presidential palace in Caracas, Salomón Cohen Botbol, president of the Venezuelan Confederation of Jewish Associations (CAIV), the delegation had obtained a promise from Chávez that he would “study everything we presented to him.” Cohen gave Chávez a dossier containing numerous examples of anti-Semitic messages that have appeared "almost daily, and for several years, in state media and government-friendly media."
He said afterwards that he was satisfied with the meeting: "We reviewed the negative consequences that hateful expressions can lead to and how they can affect the security and integrity of the institutions and individuals that make up the community of Venezuelan Jews," the organization said in a statement following the meeting.
The Chávez administration recently decided to step up security at synagogues and Jewish community centers for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, and Cohen thanked the president for that. In January 2009, a synagogue in Caracas was ransacked and vandalized, and authorities later arrested 11 people, including eight police officers, suspected of participating. Chávez condemned the attack, and investigators said they believed the intruders wanted to steal cash they believed was kept inside. The following month, unidentified attackers lobbed a small explosive at a Jewish community center in the capital, damaging its doors but not hurting anyone.
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