Following the example of Arab and Muslim regimes around the world, Venezuela’s dictator Nicolas Maduro uses antisemitic conspiracy theories to foster the support of his remaining followers and stifle opposition. As soon as Juan Guaido, President of Venezuela’s National Assembly, had declared on 23 January that he would accept the responsibility of forming a 30-day interim government in the absence of a constitutionally elected president, Maduro’s leftist supporters in Venezuela and abroad flooded the social networks with tweets and memes according to which „Israel“ or „Zionists“ were behind an alleged coup attempt:
„The United States are the armed branch of the Rothschild Jews who want to pillage Venezuela and all of Latin America.“ @Anaespejooscuro
„It is a fact that only Zionist governments do not recognize Maduro … that they shook hands and appointed a murderer like Netanyahu. Trump, Bolsonaro, Macri, lackeys of international banking.“ @MarceloBrusco
„The ultraliberal Zionist lobby blocks the supply of all kinds of products to Venezuela, while inciting the local population who has impoverished due to their blockade, blaming the left.“ @elnath_taur
„The capitalist Zionists demonstrating their tentacles of power.“ @brizuela1960
„Latin America will soon be free of these pro-Zionist assassins.“ @Ismael_Arias
„The coup in Venezuela is supported by right-wingers and right-wing Jewish hustlers in Mexico.“@ArellanoM63
„When Hugo Chavez took over as president in 1999 he nationalised kosher banks/ oil/ gas / gold and many Jewish industries. They then ran away to Israel and USA. Since then Venezuela is the evil country that must be taught a kosher lesson.“ @papa250254
On that day and the day after, there were literally thousands of tweets in which “Zionists“ were made responsible for events unfolding 6,500 miles away from Israel. An antisemitic picture that was spread on Twitter showed the Grim Reaper depicted as having entered and exited doors marked “Iraq”, “Libya”, “Syria” and “Ukraine”, now knocking on the door of „Venezuela“. The figure was cloaked in an American flag and carrying a scythe with the Israeli flag on it.
„The fact that these conspiracy theories are emerging now is not surprising, given the country’s long history of leaders, including late President Hugo Chavez and his followers, scapegoating Israel and using Jews as a political tool“, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said in a report that was published this week. ADL has closely monitored the anti-Semitic rhetoric emanating from the government since 2006. The article mentioned a February 13 interview in al-Mayadeen, a Lebanese media outlet affiliated with Hezbollah, in which Maduro charged that Guaidó’s inner circle was full of CIA agents serving “American and Zionist” interests. He further indicated that Venezuela and his government remain closely aligned with the Palestinian cause, according to ADL.
Paranoia of an Israeli plot against Venezuela’s institutions has been spread for many years, first and foremost by the late president Hugo Chávez. In a speech in 2010, he said:
„The Venezuelan opposition didn’t say anything against Israel, no. Because Israel is funding the Venezuelan opposition. Israel is funding the counter-revolution. There are even groups of Israeli terrorists from the Mossad who are getting around me, trying to kill me – trying to kill me!“
On December 2, 2007, the day a constitutional referendum was held to abolish term limits, the Chávez government raided the Colegio y Centro Social, Cultural y Deportivo Hebraica in Caracas, the site of the main Jewish school and club. The government allegedly suspected that the club was harboring weapons, or was a front for Mossad. Needless to say, the raid didn’ produce any evidence. In 2013, it became known that the domestic secret service SEBIN had long been spying on Venezuela’s Jewish community.
During the campaign for the presidential elections in 2012, Venezuela’s state radio aired a comment about Henrique Capriles – the opposition leader and Chávez’ contender – with the title: „The enemy is Zionism“. It said: „This is our enemy, the Zionism that Capriles today represents“, adding that „Zionism, along with capitalism, are responsible for 90 % of world poverty and imperialist wars.“
Chávez’ antisemitic worldview has spread to his followers. When the left-wing Honduran President Manuel Zelaya – a close ally of Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro – was ousted by the parliament in 2009, he said that „Israeli mercenaries“ were attacking the Brazilian embassy where he had taken refuge and torturing him with „high-frequency radiation“. The ex-president also complained of a sore throat caused by the toxic gas being piped into the embassy by nefarious secret agents to alter his „physical and mental state“.
After Hugo Chávez’ death in 2013, Ivana Cardinale, a columnist with the state radio YVKE Mundial, wrote:
„I am 101% sure that Chavez was killed and both the CIA and the Mossad are behind the strange cancer that the president suffered.“ She added that that the Mossad also „murdered Yassir Arafat, by poisoning him with radioactive Thallium“.
In 2016, a popular Venezuelan magazine blamed scalpers “of Israelite origin“ for Venezuela’s hyperinflation. While Maduro doesn’t quite match the antisemitic incitement of his predecessor, he, too, appears to believe in a Jewish conspiracy: In 2014, during the war between Israel and Hamas, he demanded that Venezuela’s Jews should “tell the Israeli government to stop the massacre against the Palestinian people“. In 2018, he called the Gaza strip “the world’s biggest concentration camp“.
30% of Venezuela’s population are harboring antisemitic attitudes, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). One can be certain that such attitudes mainly thrive among the supporters of the regime. Chávez is dead, but his legacy lives on. However, unlike European and Muslim states, Venezuela has no century-old history of antisemitism. Hence, there is hope that the antisemitism imported by Chávez and Maduro will disappear together with the current socialist regime.