Venezuelan Jews Accept Israel's Recognition of Opposition Leader, Chief Rabbi Says

The usually neutral community backs Israel's decision to legitimize the claim to power by Maduro's opponent

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Juan Guaido, who swore himself in as the leader of Venezuela, at a protest in Caracas, Venezuela, Saturday, February 2, 2019.
Juan Guaido, who swore himself in as the leader of Venezuela, at a protest in Caracas, Venezuela, Saturday, February 2, 2019.Credit: Bloomberg
JTA
JTA

Venezuela’s chief rabbi said his community “accepts” Israel’s recognition of the claim to power by an opposition leader fighting to oust Venezuelan 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 Israeli Broadcasting Corporation 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 recognize 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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