Darkness on Referendum Eve in Caracas

Lost in the good news that the Venezuelan people rejected President Hugo Chavez’s constitutional referendum is the story that federal police raided the main Jewish social club in Caracas the night before the polls opened for the referendum. This should be a reminder that although Chavez appeared conciliatory when he addressed his supporters there are some very dark tendencies in his regime. These aspects of the regime have not fully manifested themselves – beyond rhetorical chumminess with some of the world’s worst characters such as Iranian President “I want to erase Israel” Ahmadinejad, Cuba’s Castro, and Zimbabwe’s Mugabe. But as Chavez finds his domestic reforms stymied (one aspect of the defeated referendum was to allow the President to be re-elected indefinitely) and his economy implodes (inflation is on the upswing and government controlled pricing has led to food shortages) naked violence and repression may appear openly with tragic consequences for Venezuela and perhaps beyond.

Two things must be made absolutely clear. First, violence, repression and terrorism often start by targeting Jews – but they inevitably move beyond the initial victims.

Second, this raid, ostensibly searching for weapons and explosives, was not an isolated incident – it is part of a pattern of anti-Semitic behavior by the Chavez regime.

The Sunday morning raid echoes an ugly incident from December 2004 when, after a Chavez ally was killed in a carbombing (and state-controlled media cited Mossad plots), Venezuelan security raided Caracas’ Jewish day school Colegio Hebraica – first thing in the morning as children were arriving. The incident shocked many Venezuelans, Carlos Blanco, a prominent journalist wrote (translation courtesy of an excellent blog, Daniel’s Venezuela News and Views:

When a Jew is attacked for being such, we enter a zone of total and absolute risk for the free thinking and existence of all, Jews and non Jews alike. Do not believe the official apologies, they are part of the same set up.

Recently, when former Defense Minister Juan Baduel broke publicly with Chavez, Chavistas accused Baduel of allying with Venezuela’s small Jewish community. Tarek William Saab, governor of Anzoatequi and a Chavez ally stated in an interview that Baduel, “has been captured by the international ultra right wing, by international Zionism.”

In his 2005 Christmas Eve address, spoke of “…the descendents of the same ones that crucified Christ, the descendents of the same ones that kicked Bolivar out of here and also crucified him in their own way over there in Santa Marta, in Colombia. A minority has taken possession all of the wealth of the world . . . “

The anti-Semitism of the chavismo is no affectation; it is core to their worldview. One of Chavez’s mentors was a notorious Argentine anti-Semitic and Holocaust denying social scientist, the late Norberto Ceresole (thanks to another first-rate Venezuelan blog, The Devil’s Excrement, for this background).

So far, as authoritarian demagogues go, Chavez has been relatively mild. Swag and swagger have fueled his rise on the world stage. But the strain of ancient evil running through the chavismo is a worrying sign that something darker lies beneath the bluster.

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