By Jack Yates
The insects that swarm around decaying human bodies reveal a great deal about the cause and timing of death. Stomach contents are even more informative. Pathologists drain the fluid, conduct biological and chemical tests, look carefully at samples under the microscope. In this way they can pinpoint the exact cause of death, or at least discern the last meal of a murder victim. Analogous methods can be applied in politics. You can tell something about a regime by the vermin it attracts. But to get some sense of the real cause of political illness, a peek inside the guts is necessary.
And so it is with Venezuela. President Hugo Chávez has forged close economic and diplomatic ties with a long list of repressive, anti-democratic regimes since coming to power. Among this list is Iran, whose leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed: “The distance between our countries may be a bit far, but the hearts and thoughts are very close”. There are exactly 7,219 miles between Caracas and Tehran. How many miles, exactly, separate the clerical-fascists in Tehran and the Bolivarian ‘revolutionaries’?
Venezuela has no tradition of anti-semitism. The 260,000 Jews who live in the country are mainly descended from European and North African refugees who fled during World War Two. Nazi fugitives chose to squirrel themselves away in Argentina, Paraguay and Chile rather than the relatively cosmopolitan Venezuela. So how can we explain the recent outburst of anti-semitic attacks?
According to the neo-conservative Commentary Magazine and the pro-Chávez Venezuela Analysis website, synagogues and Jewish community buildings have been sprayed with anti-semitic comments like “child killers”, “Jews get out”, “Jews are dogs” and swastikas intertwined with the Star of David — often alongside the symbol of the Venezuelan Communist Party. In September 2006 the El Diario de Caracas newspaper carried an article stating: “Let us pay attention to the behaviour of the Israeli-Zionists ... Possibly we will have to expel them from our country ... as other nations have done”. Jewish community centres and schools have been repeatedly raided by armed government agents who claim to be investigating “subversive activity”.
Venezuela Analysis claims that these incidents — and others not catalogued here — do not signify a turn in the regime towards anti-semitism but are the result of fervent “anti-imperialism”. They claim that leading members of the Caracas Jewish community, including the city’s most prominent Rabbi, have been involved in the various plots to remove Chávez. Some of them were pictured standing side-by-side with the 2002 coup leaders and more recently on student demonstrations against a referendum to allow Chávez to stay in power indefinitely. This “explanation” — a mirror of the sort of nonsense conjured up by the reactionary anti-imperialist left in this country to excuse their allies in Hamas and Hezbollah — simply does not fit with the reality of Chávez’s own comments and the political history of his closest advisers.
On Christmas Eve 2004 Chávez addressed the nation: “The world has enough for everybody, but it happened that some minorities — the descendants of those who crucified Christ ... took possession of the riches of the world. A minority appropriated the world’s gold, the silver, the minerals, the waters, the lands, the oil, and has concentrated the riches in a few hands.” The reference to the classic anti-semitic “Christ Killers” should be noted here. That some of Chavez’s most fervent supporters are distributing copies of the tsarist forgery the Protocols of the Elders of Zion also indicates that this anti-semitism is increasingly deep rooted. Add into the mix Chávez’s long-standing association with Argentinian fascist and Holocaust denier Norberto Ceresole and even the slowest of us should be able to see a pattern emerging.
Ceresole had a vision for South America that conveniently knitted into Chávez’s “Bolivarianism”. He envisaged a federation of Latin American states led by a group of “caudillos” — fascist strongmen. Acting as an adviser to Chávez, Ceresole was present during attempts to take power militarily until being deported from the country in 1995. He believed that the greatest threat to Chávez laid in the “Jewish financial maffia.”
Chávez’s political eclecticism - ranging from socialist phrasemaking, liberation theology to the counsel of fascists - is one thing. But Venezuela has become a double-edged sword for socialists. Where some idiotically claim that a really existing socialist revolution is taking place in the country and remain silent in the time-honoured fashion of their Stalinist forebears, others — who perhaps have few illusions in the “socialist” content of the Chávez regime — will remain silent for fear of aiding the “imperialist aggressors”. Socialists should be clear: Chávez is no socialist, Venezuela is not in the midst of socialist transformation and the growing signs of anti-semitism are enough to confirm as much.