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NEW YORK - Jewish leaders raised the plight of small Jewish communities in South America at a meeting with President George Bush in Brasilia on Monday.

Leaders of the World Jewish Congress met Bush, who was visiting the city for a conference of Latin American leaders on promoting democracy in South America.

World Jewish Congress Chairman Israel Singer told Bush that the mood among the Jewish communities is the "barometer for democracy's strength," and that the index for democracy is the governments' treatment of their Jewish citizens.

He said that when the situation for Jews is bad in a certain country, it's a sign that its democracy is in danger.

The WJC leaders expressed their concern for the Jews of Venezuela, whom they said are being treated harshly by the government.

Singer told Bush that increasing numbers of Jews are leaving Venezuela, and that the local community was dwindling.

Singer said the very fact that Bush met the delegation will help the Jewish leaders from the United States to promote the affairs of the small South American Jewish communities in their planned talks with senior State Department officials.

Jack Terpins, president of the Latin American Jewish Congress, and Rabbi Henry Sobel, director of inter-religious relations for the Latin American Jewish Congress and chief rabbi of Brazil, also took part in the Jewish delegation.