A report released by State Department on Religious Freedom on Tuesday accused Nicolás Maduro’s socialist regime in Venezuela of allowing “anti-semitic overtones” to taint the actions of the nation’s institutions, including the court system.
The State’s Department International Religious Freedom Report for 2017 cited representatives from the Confederation of Jewish Associations of Venezuela arguing that “criticism of Israel in government-owned or -affiliated media carried anti-Semitic overtones, sometimes disguised as anti-Zionist messages,” while “government-owned or -associated media and government supporters at times denied or trivialized the Holocaust.”
“Jewish leaders stated that to avoid accusations of anti-Semitism, government and some pro-government media began replacing the word ‘Jewish’ with ‘Zionist,'” the report continued.
Around 96 percent of the estimated 31.3 million people in Venezuela are Roman Catholic. The nation is home to a minority population of about 9,000 Jews, most of whom live in the capital, Caracas. However, many Jews are fleeing the country amid a climate of political hostility and a deep economic and humanitarian crisis.
Much of the regime’s anti-Semitism appears to be driven by a virulent opposition to Israel and support for the Palestinian cause. Instances of such opposition include a documentary aired on the state propaganda network TeleSur “comparing the wartime Nazi genocide of European Jews to political violence between Israelis and Palestinians.”
Diplomatically, the Venezuelan the government also maintains strong ties with anti-Semitic regimes such as Iran, which has repeatedly called for the destruction of Israel. Senior members of the Maduro regime also have close ties to terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah, even allowing some to operate freely within the country.
During the 2012 presidential campaign, supporters of Hugo Chávez were also heard hurling anti-Semitic slurs at opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski, who is Catholic but has Jewish heritage. Capriles was also repeatedly attacked for having secret links to Zionism, which state media labeled as “the most rotten sentiments represented by humanity.”
Last year, Maduro also sparked international outrage after he compared members of the country’s opposition to Nazis while describing supporters of his regime as “the new Jews of the 21st century that Hitler persecuted.”
Maduro vehemently denies allegations of anti-semitism and has previously claimed to have Jewish heritage.
“We are not anti-Semites,” he said in 2013. “There has never been anti-Semitism in Venezuela … my grandparents were Jewish, both the Maduros and the Moros, and converted to Catholicism in Venezuela.”