CARACAS, Feb 5 – President Hugo Chavez condemned Saturday’s attack on Caracas’ main synagogue, which he said was being used by "the bourgeoisie" to fan unrest ahead of a crucial referendum next week on his bid for unlimited re-election.,
"They accuse me of being anti-Semitic. I don’t hate Jews, and I call on all Venezuelan Jews not to let themselves be used," Chavez said during a military parade in Maracay, 80 kilometres (50 miles) southeast of Caracas.
"The government rejects any attack against any temple of the Jewish, Catholic, Muslim, or any other faith," Chavez said in regards to early Saturday’s attack on the Tifert Israel Synagogue by 15 people who destroyed scripture books and sprayed the building with anti-semitic graffiti.
Chavez accused the "Venezuelan bourgeoisie" of turning the attack into an "international scandal" to promote anti-government unrest ahead of the February 15 referendum on a constitutional amendment lifting term limits for elected officials.
"Don’t let yourselves be used by the war laboratories of the bourgeoisie, who are trying to stop the ‘yes’ vote from winning," Chavez told the Jewish community.
The brainchild of Chavez, the referendum is his second attempt at keeping himself in power beyond his constitutionally mandated two terms in office that expire in 2012. A similar referendum was defeated in late 2007.
Elias Farache, president of Venezuela’s Jewish Association, last week blamed the synagogue attack on tensions fuelled by Chavez’ decision to break diplomatic relations with Tel Aviv in protest over Israel’s military assault in the Gaza Strip.
Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro met with Jewish leaders Wednesday to convey Chavez’ repudiation of the synagogue attack, which he later described to reporters as a "top-level professional, surgical operation" that was under close investigation.
"We’ll capture (the culprits) and we’ll punish them with the full weight of the law, whoever they are," he added.