Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro has triggered international outrage yet again with remarks comparing the nation’s anti-socialist opposition to Nazis and branding his oppressive socialist regime “the new Jews of the 21st century that Hitler persecuted.”
Maduro, under whose authority Venezuelan soldiers have been accused of a host of gross human rights violations, made the claim during a nationally televised broadcast on Tuesday night.
“We are the new Jews of the 21st century that Hitler persecuted, that is who we are,” he said of the ruling Chavista cohort. “We do not carry the yellow Star of David, we carry the red hearts full of the will to struggle and fight for human dignity and we will defeat these 21st century Nazis, these fascists,” he declared.
Maduro later announced that Foreign Ministry Delcy Rodríguez would lead “a national and international… crusade of struggle against fascist hate.”
During the same broadcast, he accused National Assembly President Julio Borges, an opposition leader, of being responsible for all violent acts committed by the Venezuelan military against the peaceful protests that Borges has helped organize. Maduro’s unofficial Chavista gangs, known as colectivos, have notably attacked Borges on multiple occasions, breaking his nose in a public attack in 2016.
Multiple international groups have condemned Maduro’s comparison of the Holocaust to the resistance movement that has fought against his tyrannical government.
“Nicolás Maduro banalizes the Holocaust and distorts a black chapter in history to benefit his dictatorship,” the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, said on Twitter.
— Luis Almagro (@Almagro_OEA2015) May 17, 2017
The Confederation of Israelite Associations of Venezuela, meanwhile, issued a statement of “absolute repudiation” of his comments. “That episode in the history of humanity, which cost six million Jews their lives, among them 1.5 million children, is unique and incomparable,” the group affirmed.
Maduro’s claims of violence against his government are part of a greater operation to depict the opposition as violent representatives of an international conspiracy, led by the United States, to subvert socialism. Add to Maduro’s latest salvo a column published on the website of the nation’s state-run television network, quoting Venezuela’s telecommunications chief, Andrés Eloy Méndez, as denouncing “an attack against republican institutions” spearheaded by “The United States’ Southern Command.”
“Social media is a danger and the principal tool of the non-conventional war,” Eloy Méndez warned.
Maduro’s Holocaust reference was not the first time the Chavista government has faced accusations of anti-Semitism.
Hugo Chávez supporters hurled openly anti-Semitic slurs against then-presidential contender and current opposition leader Henrique Capriles Radonski in 2011, despite Capriles being a practicing Catholic.
Maduro has personally been accused of keeping anti-Semitic diplomatic ties, particularly with the government of Iran, which has repeatedly demanded the destruction of the Jewish state of Israel. Iranian government agents are also suspected of organizing the 1994 bombing of the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association (AMIA) in Buenos Aires and planting bombs near the Israeli embassy in Montevideo, Uruguay, posing a direct threat to the Jewish community of Latin America.
Maduro’s government also keeps close ties to Palestinian activists and the Iranian proxy regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
In response to these criticisms, Maduro claimed Jewish heritage in 2013. “We are not anti-Semites,” Maduro said, “there has never been anti-Semitism in Venezuela… my grandparents were Jewish, both the Maduros and the Moros, and converted to Catholicism in Venezuela.”
At least 43 people have died during the latest wave of protests in Venezuela, which have not ceased a single day since they began in late March. Most of these deaths have been at the hands of Maduro’s Bolivarian National Guard (GNB), including the gruesome death of unarmed protesters run over by an armored tank.
In addition to killing protesters, the Venezuelan government has arrested dozens of political dissenters, all civilians, and placed them in military prisons to be tried for military crimes like treason and sedition. NGOs operating in the country say these individuals are being beaten and tortured as they await their closed military trial, which in itself violates international human rights norms.