Hugo Chavez Accused of Anti-Semitism
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- A Jewish rights group accused Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez of making anti-Semitic comments in a Christmas Eve speech.
The Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center demanded an apology Wednesday from Chavez saying such remarks have long been used to persecute Jews.
"The world has enough for all, but it turned out that some minorities, descendants of those who crucified Christ, descendants of those who threw Bolivar out of here and also crucified him in their own way in Santa Marta, there in Colombia. A minority took the world's riches for themselves," Chavez said, according to a transcript of the Dec. 24 speech. Simon Bolivar led the 19th century fight to liberate Venezuela and some other Latin nations from Spanish rule.
Chavez did not did specifically mention the Jewish people in the televised speech.
A spokeswoman for his office said it had no immediate response to the complaint.
"In your words, the two central arguments of anti-Semitism emerge ... the accusation that Jews killed Jesus (and) associating them with wealth," the Center said in a letter to Chavez. "Our center strongly condemns your anti-Semitic declarations."
Another Jewish leader, U.S. Rabbi Arthur Waskow, said in an e-mail he has serious doubts it was an anti-Semitic slur.
"I know of no one who accuses the Jews of fighting against Bolivar," wrote Waskow, of The Shalom Center in Philadelphia. "And certainly I - and most Jews - teach that it was the Roman Empire, and Roman soldiers, who crucified Jesus."
Chavez's comments came in a part of the speech about the world's poor.
Chavez, a fiery speaker, has called President Bush a "madman" and also used a derogatory term for "jerk" in referring to him. Chavez has also criticized Mexican President Vicente Fox.
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