Venezuelan Jews ‘accept’ Israel’s recognition of opposition leader

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Venezuelan Jews ‘accept’ Israel’s recognition of opposition leader

Chief rabbi of the south American country, which finds itself in political turmoil, backs the Jewish state's position

Protester facing the Venezuelan National Guard during a protest in May 2017.
Protester facing the Venezuelan National Guard during a protest in May 2017.

Venezuela’s chief rabbi said his community “accepts” Israel’s recognition of the claim to power by an opposition leader fighting to oust President Nicolas Maduro.

Rabbi Isaac Cohen’s statement seems to contradict his community’s policy of neutrality in the power struggle.

“We don’t know where we’re standing now,” Cohen said during an interview Tuesday with the Israel Broadcasting Corp. in another expression of uncertainty on Venezuela’s political situation. “Maduro rules the country right now, but they appointed another president, Juan Guaido.”

The United States, Israel and several Latin American nations recognized Guiado as interim president last month. The recognition followed Guaido’s swearing himself in unilaterally during a mass rally against the inauguration of Maduro, who won Venezuela’s discredited 2018 elections.

Amid wild inflation and severe shortages in basic commodities under Maduro, a far-left socialist, protests erupted across Venezuela. Security forces responded with raids that have killed dozens of people over the past two weeks.

Support for Maduro, a vitriolic critic of Israel, isn’t high among Venezuela’s middle-class Jewish community of some 10,000. But throughout the unrest, the Jewish community has kept to a line of strict neutrality.

Yet when asked what his community thinks of Israel’s decision to recognise Guaido, Cohen said “We accept it.”

Shlomo Amar, a chief rabbi of Jerusalem, said in the same interview that Maduro told him when he visited Venezuela in December that he’s descended from “a Dutch Jewish community that was exiled to South America.” Most such traffic was in the opposite direction.

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