It’s hard to imagine how the apologists for Hugo Chavez of Venezuela are going to manage to put the gloss on the attacks being made by his regime on the new figure emerging in the opposition, Henrique Capriles Radonski. Mr. Capriles is a Catholic whose maternal grandparents were Jews from Poland. He is emerging as a challenger to succeed the cancer-ridden president. But now Mr. Capriles, governor of the state of Miranda, is being made the target of the kind of crude anti-Semitism that one normally associates with an earlier time.
A broadcast called “The Enemy Is Zionism” on the main and official government radio station in Caracas said that Mr. Capriles had worked for private sector firms “linked to the interests of the Zionist bourgeoisie.” It calls him part of a “fascist and paramilitary sect” in which “religious rites were practiced” and plans were laid to attack “everything that did not represent the national Aryan race.” It accused him of covertly representing Zionism, which, it said, “is hiding behind a religious and nationalist discourse” and “is the owner of most financial institutions in the world, controlling almost 80% of the global economy and communications industry almost entirely, while maintaining decision-making positions within the Department of State and European powers.”
The government radio charges that Mr. Capriles recently met with the Confederation of Jewish Associations of Venezuela, where, it says, they talked of, among other things, restoring diplomatic relations with Israel. It accuses the confederation of having “no shame” in its pro-Zionist views. Yet it it was only a year or so ago that Mr. Chavez and his mentor, Fidel Castro, were trying to convince the world that they had undergone a change of heart in respect of the Jews. “We respect and love the Jewish people,” Mr. Chavez was quoted by Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic as saying at an international tourism fair at Caracas. Mr. Chavez professed his affection for the Jews shortly after Mr. Goldberg reported on his visit to Cuba, where he got the Cuban leader to chastise President Ahmadinejad for denying the Holocaust.
At the time — that was in the fall of 2010 — Mr. Goldberg reported that, according to people he’d been in touch with, Mr. Chavez’s entente was “a direct result of Fidel’s statement.” No doubt he was right about that. But to what — or whom — is one going to attribute the latest government broadcast? “Using anti-Semitism as a political weapon to intimidate, discredit and disparage has been a constant modus operandi by sectors of the Chavista movement,” an official of the American Jewish Committee in Washington, Dina Siegel Vann, is quoted by the Wall Street Journal as saying. “We were just waiting for the barrage to start.”
Our own instinct is that the new eruption of anti-Semtism by the Venezuela regime can be likened to a kind of death-bed confession by Mr. Chavez, who once mocked President Bush for leaving the smell of sulfur in the United Nations but who is now no doubt, with the cancer upon him, sniffing the early vapors of Hell. So he’s letting it be known — he is, in fact, hostile to Israel. No wonder his regime has long partnered with the Iranians. One analyst who has been following the story, Joel Hirst, who is a fellow of the George W. Bush Institute, characterizes Caracas under Chavez as the “Beirut of the 21st century” and a terrorist “blackout zone protected by the Venezuelan government.”
We have written before in these columns about President Ahmadinejad’s machinations in Venezuela, including in an editorial issued in January 2007 called “Mr. Monroe, Call Your Office.” Also in our pages that month was an important and early piece by the executive director of the American Jewish Committee, David Harris, warning that Latin America had become a focal point of Iran’s interests and naming Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, with the last being of “greatest concern” because of “its size and its leader’s proclaimed ambitions.”
Mr. Harris cited the recently released report of the special prosecutor in Argentina, Alberto Nisman, who had investigated the bombing of the Jewish Center at Buenos Aires that, in July 1994, had slain 85 persons. The Nisman report confirmed what had been long-suspected, Mr. Harris noted, that the plot was hatched at Iran. In 2009, we issued an editorial in respect of the remarks made in 2009 by the former district attorney of New York County, Robert Morgenthau, at the Brookings Institution. He detailed how Messrs. Chavez and Ahmadinejad have “created a cozy financial, political and military partnership rooted in a shared anti-American animus” and warned that “now is the time to develop policies “to ensure this partnership produces no poisonous fruit.”
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All this has been marked on the campaign trail here in America, particularly by Senator Santorum, who has spoken about it several times in the debates. Governor Perry came in on the issue, too. As early as the debate at Sioux City, Iowa, he noted that Venezuela has the largest Iranian embassy in the world. “We know what is going on,” he said. “It is time for this country to have a real conversation about a Monroe Doctrine again like we did against the Cubans in the 60s.” Senator Santorum followed up, noting he’d been saying for years that “we need to pay much more attention to what is going on in our own hemisphere.”
Not only do the Iranians have their largest embassy at Venezuela, Mr. Santorum said, but “there are flights from Tehran, from Damascus to Caracas. And those flights stop at a military base before they come into the civilian base. There are training camps, jihadist training camps in Central and South America. They’re working with the drug cartels. And they are planning assaults on the United States. That is what we know is going on right now.” All one can add is that come an attack on either American or Israel or Jewish targets out of Venezuela, it’s not going to be possible for the Obama administration to say it wasn’t warned.