Jewish Center attacked in Venezuela; no injuries
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Assailants threw an explosive at a Jewish community center on Thursday, but nobody was hurt in the blast — the second assault against Venezuela’s Jewish community this year.
Abraham Garzon, president of the Jewish Community Center, told the local Globovision television news channel that a small explosive resembling a pipe-bomb was lobbed at the building in Caracas before dawn on Thursday. The explosion damaged the doors to the center.
“It seems there are people in the country dedicated to sowing terrorism,” Garzon said.
No one claimed responsibility for the attack, which immediately reignited fears of rising anti-Semitism in Venezuela.
It was the second attack against a Jewish institution this year.
A Caracas synagogue was ransacked and vandalized last month. The assailants shattered religious objects, spray-painted “Jews, get out” on the temple’s walls and stole a computer database containing names and addresses of Jews living in Venezuela.
Authorities have arrested 11 people, including eight police officers, suspected of participating in the attack. Investigators believe the assailants forced their way into the temple to steal a large amount of cash they believed was inside. The vandalism, authorities say, could have been aimed at turning attention away from the true motive behind the crime.
On Thursday, Sergio Widder of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center criticized Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for failing to take steps aimed at curbing anti-Semitism.
Chavez should strongly criticize pro-government Web sites and newspapers that have carried articles and columns that many Venezuelan Jews perceive as anti-Semitic, he said.
“This is outrageous, it’s turning into an escalation,” said Widder, the center’s representative for Latin America. “It’s the government’s responsibility to stop this.”
During Israel’s offensive in Gaza, Chavez fiercely criticized the Jewish state and ordered the Israeli ambassador out of Venezuela. Protests against the military incursion were held in Caracas and demonstrators hurled shoes at and sprayed graffiti on the Israeli embassy.
Chavez, who has repeatedly condemned the Jan. 30 attack on the synagogue, denies being anti-Semitic. The socialist leader says he simply opposes Israeli policies toward the Palestinians. He accuses the Israeli government of acting as an arm of Washington.
Venezuela’s Jewish community numbers nearly 15,000.