The chair of the parliamentary group on anti-Semitism has criticised Venezuela for not protecting Jews, and called for Labour to “revise our understanding” of the regime there.
The UK Foreign Office outlined the government would consider backing a global effort to impose sanctions against Venezuela as the country is in “meltdown”. Plunging oil prices and widespread corruption have left the formerly prosperous nation struggling with widespread shortages of food and medicine, which has led to mass civil unrest and political chaos.
Minister Sir Alan Duncan criticised the South American country’s president Nicolas Maduro, amid his efforts to assume nearly unlimited powers and the apparent detention of two leading Venezuelan opposition figures.
Amid the chaos, Labour MP John Mann, the chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) Against Antisemitism, said his party should “condemn the authoritarian regime”.
He said: “The government has refused to protect the Jewish community there from anti-Semitic attacks and refused to meet me and other international politicians to discuss this.
“Venezuela is a despot regime…, leaving millions living in abject poverty and on the verge of starvation.
This comes as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was urged by MPs to personally condemn the country’s government, in light of his previous support for it under socialist Hugo Chavez and his successor Nicolas Maduro.
Asked about the Labour leadership’s position, Mr Mann said: “It is time to revise our understanding of Venezuela and condemn unreservedly its current slide into violence, poverty and dictatorship.”
Earlier this week, it was announced that twenty-six Jews from Venezuela immigrated to Israel, fleeing the South American country’s political, social and economic unrest.
“The situation is very hard,” Michal Levy, 35, said upon arriving in Israel on Wednesday with her three children. “It’s hard to get basic things like bread and flour,” Levy said, adding that she has been afraid to leave her house due to riots or kidnappings.
The new immigrants from Venezuela were brought to Israel by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, which funded the cost of airline tickets to Israel and provided each oleh with a gift of £304 ($400) per child and £609 ($800) per adult, on top of the financial aid package that every immigrant is entitled to receive from the Israeli government.
By the end of 2017, the Fellowship expects to bring some 100 immigrants from Venezuela to Israel, the organisation said in a statement.
In May, President Maduro likened the harassment of his country’s government officials and their families living abroad to the treatment of Jews under the Nazis. He also said that opposition rallies in Caracas were reminiscent of rallies during the rise of Nazism and fascism in pre-World War II Europe.
“We are the new Jews of the 21st century that Hitler pursued,” Maduro said. “We don’t carry the yellow Star of David, we carry red hearts that are filled with desire to fight for human dignity. And we are going to defeat them, these 21st century Nazis.”
In March, Venezuela’s foreign minister, Delcy Rodriguez, expressed to his country’s chief rabbi, Isaac Cohen, “the desire to establish full relations with the State of Israel” eight years after the South American nation expelled its Israeli ambassador.
One month before, Maduro welcomed Cohen and members of the country’s umbrella Jewish organization, the Confederacion de Asociaciones Israelitas de Venezuela, at the governmental palace to strengthen cooperation that over the years has faced roadblocks.
“A good day of dialog for peace. Boosting the co-existence and the dialog of civilisations, of religions to consolidate our nation,” Maduro tweeted then.
A week before that, the United States had barred Venezuela’s vice president, Tareck El Aissami, from entering the U.S., accusing him of playing a major role in international drug trafficking. El Aissami also has been accused of anti-Semitism and ties to Iran and the terrorist group Hezbollah.
Anti-Semitic rhetoric was often employed by Chavez to deflect criticism from the country’s deep financial crisis and charges of corruption.
Venezuela is home to some 9,000 Jews, down from about 25,000 in 1999. Many Jews left, mainly for Florida and Israel.