Venezuela / 06-09-2012
Chavez campaign takes on antisemitic undertones
Caracas - Hugo Chavez is not known for mincing words.
But recently, the Venezuelan President has unleashed highly personal attacks against Henrique Capriles Radonski, his opponent in Chavez's reelection campaign, including some with antisemitic undertones.
Last week, he called Capriles Radonski ‘jalabola’ and ‘majunche,’ rude terms for someone who is a mediocre flatterer without personality, El Mundo reported. But in recent weeks, he has also called Capriles Radonski “stateless,” “an imperialist” and “bourgeois”, while referring to himself as the candidate of the Fatherland.
That would all be just more of the same Chavez bluster, but his latest vitriol is drawing particular attention because it seems to be at least partly motivated by antisemitism - Capriles Radonski is a practicing and devout Catholic, but has Jewish ancestry.
His charge that Capriles is “stateless,” and “imperialist,” both accusations that have been used against Jews in the past. Right after Capriles Radonski’s nomination, a column was published on the website of the state-controlled radio station, titled “The Enemy is Zionism,” which argued that Capriles Radonski should be disqualified from running for president because of his Jewish ancestry, El Universal reported.
The column immediately provoked requests from Latin America Jewish organizations to avoid antisemitic tones in the campaign.
Chavez has a long history of antisemitism. He has made speeches saying that some minority groups had amassed more than their share of the world’s wealth, and that one such group was “Christ’s killers,” La Nacion reported. The state-controlled media has also been frequently used to make antisemitic and anti-Zionist arguments.
Capriles Radonski’s grandparents on his mother’s side were Jews who fled Europe during World War II. His father is Catholic, but descended from Sephardic Jews who arrived in Venezuela in the 1850s. “My grandmother was in the Warsaw Ghetto for 20 months, in a basement to avoid being killed by the Nazis. And there are government officials who call me a Nazi,” Capriles Radonski told El Universal shortly after his nomination, in response to attacks from the state media.