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Cablegate: Venezuela's Jewish Community Sees "Dark Horizon"

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FM AMEMBASSY CARACAS
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 CARACAS 001401

SIPDIS

HQSOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/01/2029
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL KDEM VE
SUBJECT: VENEZUELA'S JEWISH COMMUNITY SEES "DARK HORIZON"

REF: A. CARACAS 1389
B. CARACAS 1271
C. CARACAS 1090

CARACAS 00001401 001.2 OF 002


Classified By: Political Counselor Robin D. Meyer,
for reasons 1.4 (B) and (D).

1. (C) Summary: In an October 28 breakfast meeting with
the Confederacion de Asociaciones Israelitas Venezolanas
(CAIV) Board of Directors, XXXXXXXXXXXX, said
he privately encouraged Brazilian senators to allow
Venezuela to join MERCOSUR. At the same time, Jewish
community leaders told PolCouns the Venezuelan government's
(GBRV's) attacks and "double-talk," constant criticism of
Israel, growing alliance with Iran, and increasing
limitations on freedom of speech contribute to a heightened
sense of vulnerability by the Jewish community. End Summary.

-------------------
SUPPORTING MERCOSUR
-------------------

2. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX said he had spoken by phone
to a Brazilian senator and had privately urged the Brazilian
Senate on October 27 to allow Venezuela to join MERCOSUR,
believing that membership in the organization would help
promote and defend human rights. Given the ongoing sense
of threat, CAIV members agreed on the need for close
relations with the U.S. and other Embassies as a form
of diplomatic protection for the Jewish community.

------------------------
MEDIA ATTACKS SINCE 2004
------------------------

3. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX said "2004 was a turning
point in Venezuela," when Chavez began
referring to support of certain Jewish leaders for the 2002
post-coup government as justification for verbal and physical
attacks against the Jewish community and synagogues.
XXXXXXXXXXXX said anti-Semitic programs and articles
have been regular features of government-owned media since
2004, and "international anti-Jewish campaigns have been
tailored for use domestically." XXXXXXXXXXXX emphasized
that the anti-Semitism is "government-sponsored." He noted that Emilio
Silva, the author of a January 20 article on the government
website aporrea.org which called for violent demonstrations
at the Tiferet synagogue just 10 days before the synagogue
was attacked, is still teaching at the pro-government
Bolivarian University of Venezuela. They also noted that
there are regular government media attacks on Miranda State
Governor Henrique Capriles Rodonski as a Jew, despite the
fact that, while of Jewish ancestry, he is Christian.

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CONSIDERED FOREIGN, NOT VENEZUELAN
----------------------------------

4. (C) CAIV continues to be in weekly contact with senior
Ministry of Foreign Affairs official Temir Porras, and
occasionally meets with Minister of Foreign Affairs Nicolas
Maduro; they last met with him three months ago. They noted
the irony of having the Foreign Ministry, rather than the
Interior Ministry, as their designated GBRV interlocutor,
which emphasizes the GBRV's view of the Jewish community as
"foreign" rather than Venezuelan. While Chavez's rhetoric
once clearly differentiated criticism of Israel from that of
the Venezuelan Jewish community, since 2004 they believe he
has merged his anti-Zionist views with anti-Semitic ones.
(Note: Chavez has adamantly denied that he or his government
is anti-Semitic. End Note.) They pointed to repeated
"double-talk" from the GBRV, CAIV had a cordial discussion
with former GBRV official Jose Vicente Rangel, and then he
published a virulently anti-Semitic op-ed article; the GBRV
admitted that Emilio Silva's January 20 article on
aporrea.org was anti-Semitic and a "mistake," but took no
action against him. XXXXXXXXXXXX noted that the charge of having
an arms cache, which was used as justification for the 2004
searches of the Club Hebraica, has never been officially and
fully resolved. In spite of repeated requests by CAIV, court
officials claim they are "unable to find the necessary
documents to close the case."

------------------------------------------

CARACAS 00001401 002.2 OF 002


VENEZUELA'S RELATIONS WITH ISRAEL AND IRAN
------------------------------------------

5. (C) Members of the CAIV Board said they have felt
"orphaned" since the expulsion of the Israeli Ambassador and
the breaking of diplomatic relations between the two
countries. XXXXXXXXXXXX said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had
issued a ban on visas for Israeli citizens. While grateful
that the Canadian Embassy was taking on Israel's consular
responsibilities (ref C), many members lamented that it was
taking a long time to set up the new operation. (Note: Both
the CAIV members and the Canadian Deputy Chief of Mission
have attributed the delay to the training needed by the
individual Israel selected to serve as its consular agent.
The person had previously served as a receptionist at the
Israeli Embassy. XXXXXXXXXXXX said Israel's choice
of this person was probably intended to keep Israel's profile
low. End note.)

6. (C) The CAIV leadership was also very concerned about
the growing relationship between Iran and Venezuela.
XXXXXXXXXXXX thinks the GBRV "wants to use the treatment of
the Jewish community in Iran as a model" for Venezuela, and
there was widespread agreement among CAIV leaders that
President Chavez's close alliance with Iranian President
Ahmadinejad did not bode well for the Venezuelan Jewish
community. Many members expressed deep concern about Iranian
activities in the country, citing the lack of transparency at
the international Maiquetia airport in Caracas on flights to
and from Iran and the suspiciously inefficient Iranian
factories for bicycles. "What are these factories really
producing?" asked one CAIV member.

---------------------------
A DETERIORATING ENVIRONMENT
---------------------------

7. (C) Several CAIV members noted the effect of the
decreasing democratic space on freedom of religion.
XXXXXXXXXXXX said that while there was freedom of religion,
there was not freedom of expression. "When there are
restrictions on freedom of speech you do not have freedom of
religion," he said. CAIV members are also concerned about
the effect of the new Education Law (ref B) on the Jewish day
school. To a great extent, many members of CAIV agreed,
religious freedom cannot be separated from the general state
of human rights, and "the horizon is dark." Even though the
number of Jews in Venezuela is declining as people leave the
country, the threat to the community will remain, one member
said, because of the prominence of many Jews in business,
education, and Venezuelan society.

-------
COMMENT
-------

8. (C) The Jewish community's quiet support for Venezuela's
entry into MERCOSUR suggests that it will be better protected
by having Venezuela part of an alliance of states pledged to
the Democracy Charter than by having Venezuela left only to
its partnership with the "revolutionary" ALBA countries.
This conclusion is similar to that expressed by opposition
Mayor of Caracas Antonio Ledezma (ref A), who told Brazilian
legislators that Chavez was more dangerous isolated than if
brought into an organization of democratic countries.

DUDDY

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