Jews meet Chavez
Last updated: 2008-08-18
Hugo Chavez photo: Agência Brasil
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez promised visiting Jewish leaders he would condemn "all forms of anti-Semitism."
Chavez's promise came during a meeting last week in Caracas with leaders of the World Jewish Congress arranged by the presidents of Argentina and Brazil.
WJC President Ronald Lauder said Chavez promised to initiate a meeting with the leaders of those nations to jointly condemn "all forms of anti-Semitism, discrimination against minorities and anti-Muslim sentiment."
A leftist career military man, Chavez came to power in 1999 and has unsettled the West with his fierce criticism of global economic policy and his embrace of rogue leaders such as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and former Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
Chavez was accused of anti-Semitism following a 2006 speech in which he said the "the descendants of the same ones who crucified Christ" controlled the world's wealth, though some Venezuelan Jews said the critics took the comments out of context.
Under Chavez's rule, the Venezuelan Jewish community has declined by about a quarter, according to the WJC.
"The world Jewish community is calmer now about President Chavez," Latin American Jewish Congress President Jack Terpins said following the meeting. "He has demonstrated that he is a great friend of this community."