Venezuelan Exodus

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During one of my interviews with Fidel Castro in 2010 -- not the one at the Havana aquarium in which he explained that "the Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore"-- El Commandante spoke forcefully against anti-Semitism. Castro told me that he respected the Jewish people and that "no one has been slandered more than the Jews."

A few days after my meeting with Castro it was happily noted that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez had followed Castro's lead, saying that "we respect and love the Jews." He even agreed to meet with local Jewish leaders despite some serious invective during Israel's "Operation Cast Lead" in Gaza back in 2009. Chavez disputed charges of him being "anti-Jewish" as patently false.

However, Matthew Fishbane tells a different story about Chavez and the Jews, this one about the exodus of roughly half of Venezuela's Jewish population since Hugo Chavez came to power. (No one knows the exact number, but Venezuela's Jewish community is already small, maybe 5,000 people. Fishbane writes:

... In 2004, Chávez made his first official visit to Tehran and struck up a personal friendship and diplomatic alliance with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, whom he welcomed to Venezuela this month. This came after decades of political tutelage from another Holocaust denier, the Argentine ultra-nationalist Norberto Ceresole, who died in 2003 but who managed to instill a conspiratorial, amalgamated view of Jews in his pupil. Chávez has seemed to find in anti-Zionism, and later anti-Semitism, a valuable political tool, one that enhances, or makes more precise, his love of straw-man rhetoric and open hostility toward the United States, first against the bellicosity of George W. Bush and then against President Barack Obama, who remains an avatar of "imperialismo yanqui," which has abetted "las oligarquias" in Latin America.

...As the reality of Chávez's durability has set in, nearly half of Venezuela's Jewish community has fled from the social and economic chaos that the president has unleashed and from the uncomfortable feeling that they were being specifically targeted by the regime.

Read the whole thing.

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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