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The Venezuelan Inquisition

A few days ago, Via Meadia wrote about the disparaging anti-Semitic (and homophobic) attacks against the main opposition candidate in the upcoming Venezuelan presidential election, Henrique Capriles Radonski (who, we noted, is actually a practicing Catholic with Jewish heritage). Since our post, Matthew Fishbane, a senior editor at Tablet, has called attention to the deep roots of the Venezuelan Jewish community, the mass exodus of Jews from the country since Chávez’s election, and how that exodus has accelerated economic stagnation in the neighborhoods of Caracas that once benefited from a vibrant Jewish business community.

As Fishbane explains, Chávez has bolstered his “hybrid of populism and socialism soldered onto a Napoleonic personality cult” with political tools that give him enough votes to maintain at least a patina of popular support. The most effective of these tools are social welfare and subsidy programs, which keep the Caracas poor hemmed in the Chávez camp.

Another tool is anti-Semitism. For some time now, the government has targeted the dwindling Jewish community in Venezuela in order to win over business elites who feel increasingly threatened by successful Jewish businessmen and their Sambils (malls), which Chávez characterizes as examples of “excessive consumerism.” The fact that Capriles, not even a practicing Jew, is getting this treatment shows that the smear has been effective.

Not surprisingly, many successful businessmen (of many different religions) have left the country for greener pastures. The government’s attacks on wealthy elites, whether Gentile or Jew, might jibe with his traditional base in an election, but they bode ill for Venezuela’s financial and cultural future.

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  • RichLeC

    Where is the Mel Gibson-level backlash against Sean Penn?

  • Phineas

    “…how that exodus has accelerated economic stagnation in the neighborhoods of Caracas that once benefited from a vibrant Jewish business community.”

    And now Venezuela repeats Spain’s suicidal mistake of driving out the most vibrant element of its economic life.

  • a nissen

    “which keep the Caracas poor hemmed in the Chávez camp.”

    good job of sewing that!

  • Richard F. Miller

    What better illustration of Bebel’s remarks that, “Anti-semitism is the socialism of fools.”

  • Kris

    Robert Heinlein: “Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty. This is known as ‘bad luck’.”

  • Kris

    “The Venezuelan Inquisition”

    Everybody expected this Venezuelan Inquisition!

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