As the political crisis continues in Venezuela, the hardline regime of Nicolas Maduro, whose power is currently being challenged, is promoting hateful anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and allegations of Jewish or “Zionist” plots to take over the government.
As declared interim President Juan Guaidó – whose bid to take over the government is supported by more than 50 countries – challenges Maduro’s power, the resulting political, social and economic instability has created a ripe climate for conspiracy theories about Jews to flourish.
The fact that these conspiracy theories are emerging now is not surprising, given the country’s long history of leaders, including late President Hugo Chavez and his followers, scapegoating Israel and using Jews as a political tool. ADL has closely monitored the anti-Semitic rhetoric emanating from the government since 2006.
In the current crisis, Maduro and members of his government have invoked anti-Semitic tropes, including conspiracies of U.S. and “Zionist” control of Guaidó. Most recently, in a February 13 interview in al-Mayadeen, a Lebanese media outlet affiliated with Hezbollah, Maduro charged that Guaidó’s inner circle was full of CIA agents serving “American and Zionist” interests. He further indicated that Venezuela and his government remain closely aligned with the Palestinian cause.
Allegations and conspiracy theories of Jewish/Zionist intervention in the Venezuelan crisis are widely propagated by Maduro supporters. Here’s a sampling of such rhetoric from the first two months of 2019:
- On February 16, the Iranian Spanish-language TV channel, Hispan TV, published an article reinforcing the alleged conspiracy that Guaidó is a CIA agent and is serving the interests of the U.S. and Israel.
- On February 11, the Venezuelan Communist Party, which is aligned with Maduro, tweeted: “The Venezuelan people do not need a #Humanitarian Assistance that has an interventionist face, which is accompanied by military exercises on the #Venezuela border by the Zionist army of #Israel.”
- On January 28, the Bolivarian Circles, a collection of radical pro-Maduro committees, posted on the web site aporrea.org a statement alleging that U.S. imperialist Zionist government seeks to destroy the Bolivarian revolution.
- On January 25, @Polemicas1 tweeted:“What a COINCIDENCE that the first GRINGOS [American] Senators who have come out to support Guaidó are ALL of the LOBBY Oil-Financial-Jew. VULTURES begin to fly over VENEZUELA”
Anti-Semitism and the Jewish community
Like everyone in Venezuela, the Jewish community has suffered as a result of the ongoing political and social upheaval in the country. The Jewish presence in the country, which dates to the 19th Century and the time of Simon Bolivar, the founding father of Venezuela, has declined markedly in the past two decades.
The Chavez/Maduro governments have been overtly anti-Israel, pro-Iran and Syria, and used the Palestinian cause as a propaganda tool to advance their foreign policy agenda.
Allegations of “Zionist” ties to the opposition have been spewed in the past by the regime as reported by ADL, particularly as they refer to Henrique Capriles Radonski and David Smolansky, two opposition leaders with Jewish heritage. Capriles, who was twice a presidential candidate and a past political prisoner, was barred from running for office by the Maduro regime. Smolansky was forced into exile after the regime removed him from his post as mayor of a Caracas suburb in 2017 and was sentenced to jail.
Many government statements have crossed the line into anti-Semitism. In addition, Hezbollah’s documented presence in the region is deeply concerning, especially since their terrorist activities twice struck Argentina in the 1990s.
Moreover, January 6, 2019 marked ten years of the breakdown of diplomatic relations between Venezuela and Israel, an event that still weighs heavily on the ardently Zionist Venezuelan Jewish community, especially given the warm ties between the two nations, from the creation of the Jewish State in 1948 until Chavez severed them in 2009.
If a new transitional government is successful, there will likely be a re-establishment of diplomatic ties between Venezuela and Israel, which would be a positive step for both countries.