WASHINGTON: Venezuela contributed to a "rising tide of anti-Semitism" in 2011, with virulently anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish statements in state media and by government entities, the State Department said Monday.
The annual International Religious Freedom report called out President Hugo Chavez in particular for his stridently anti-Israel commentary.
In a public letter to the UN Secretary General last September, Chavez accused Israel of committing "genocide" and "ethnic cleansing" against the Palestinians. He also called Zionism "racism."
Earlier in the year, a government-owned newspaper called a Norwegian mass murderer a "Sabbath goy," a term that is used for non-Jews who assist with activities that observant Jews are prohibited from performing on the sabbath.
The report also notes that in April, the Ministry of Science and Technology hosted an exhibit claiming Israel was created as part of a "genocidal plan" by Jews who wanted to "ethnically cleanse" Palestinians. The exhibit compared a security barrier at the West Bank to an Auschwitz gas chamber.
Other aspects of religious life in Venezuela, however, were relatively unfettered, the department said.
Religious groups that criticized the government "were subject to harassment and intimidation," but to no greater extent than other opposition groups, according to the report.
It also noted that frosty relations with the government of President Hugo Chavez prevented any dialogue on religious freedom. Growing antagonism in 2010 led both countries to withdraw their ambassadors.
Chavez, 58 and just finishing treatment for cancer from which he has declared himself "cured," is seeking reelection October 7 against Henrique Capriles, 40, who is a grandson of Jews, and is himself Roman Catholic. (AFP)