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May 19, 2017 2:53 pm

Venezuelan Dictator Maduro Draws Ire Over ‘We Are The New Jews…That Hitler Pursued’ Outburst

avatar by Ben Cohen

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Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s depiction of his beleaguered regime as “the new Jews of the 21st century that Hitler pursued” has drawn an angry response from a leading Latin American Jewish advocate.

“It is beyond appalling that President Maduro would invoke the Holocaust in an effort to protect himself and his regime, and to attack and defame the opposition,” Dina Siegel Vann — the American Jewish Committee’s director of Latino and Latin American Affairs — said in a statement.

Leaders of CAIV, the umbrella body of the Venezuelan Jewish community, joined with Siegel Vann in rejecting “the misuse of the Holocaust for political purposes,” the AJC said.

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Maduro made the comparison during a televised cabinet meeting on Wednesday. “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.”

The “Nazis” referred to by Maduro include the popular opposition firebrand Leopoldo Lopez — a former mayor of Caracas imprisoned by the regime in 2014 during anti-regime street protests — and Henrique Capriles — the governor of the country’s Miranda province who revealed on Thursday that he had been barred from leaving Venezuela.

Maduro’s regime has been rocked by protests over the last six weeks. The Venezuelan autocrat’s attempt to sustain the enormous social subsidies that his predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez, introduced as a means of maintaining political support have collapsed amid falling oil prices, chronic corruption and overwhelming public rejection of Maduro’s growing concentration of political power in his office.

Venezuela’s grave humanitarian crisis was addressed by US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley earlier this week. “Peaceful protestors have been injured, arrested and even killed by their own government,” she said. “Medicine is unavailable, hospitals lack supplies, and it’s become difficult to find food.”

A report from a Catholic relief charity issued on Tuesday found that 11.4 percent of children in four Venezuelan states, including Caracas, are suffering from malnutrition.

Historically a country with very little antisemitism, Venezuela has witnessed several instances of politically-charged attacks on Israel and its Jewish community in the two decades since Chavez first came to power. Chavez on more than one occasion equated Israel’s military actions with those of Nazi Germany, while Maduro, first as foreign minister and then as president, has eagerly developed relations with Iran and its Lebanese satellite Hezbollah.

The Venezuelan Jewish population has shrunk from 22,000 in 1999, the year Chavez took office, to under 7,000 now.

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