Jewish human rights organizations urged Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Friday to denounce an “anti-Semitic” attack on his political opponent Henrique Capriles.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center decried a column published Monday on the Venezuelan National Radio website that linked presidential candidate Capriles to “international Zionism," calling it "the ideology of terror."
The column by Adal Hernandez noted that Capriles descends from Sephardic and Eastern European Jews before arguing that he covertly represents Zionism, which it said had killed millions of Palestinians and controlled “almost 80% of the world economy.”
The New York-based Anti-Defamation League called it “the classic anti-Semitic stereotype of a global Jewish cabal.” Wiesenthal Center officials wrote Chavez arguing that “the use of anti-Semitism as a political tool impugns democracy” and insisting that he condemn the radio station over the article.
“Chavez carries the ultimate responsibility for his own media outlets and can personally stop their hate mongering,” said the international relations director of the Wiesenthal Center, Shimon Samuels.
Capriles, a Catholic with Jewish lineage, faced similar attacks during his earlier campaign to become governor of Miranda state, the ADL wrote.
“This early appearance of government-sanctioned anti-Semitism is a deeply troubling sign of the depths that President Chavez is willing to go to retain his oppressive power,” ADL national director Abraham H. Foxman said in a statement.
The Venezuelan information minister did not immediately respond to requests for comment, the Associated Press reported. Chavez has denied past allegations of tolerating anti-Semitism.
Sharp elbows are already out in the campaign between Chavez, who has led Venezuela for 13 years, and his challenger Capriles, who argues that Venezuelans are tired of Chavez's divisiveness.
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles
Photo: Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez arrives at the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, on Thursday. Credit: Ariana Cubillos / Associated Press