“We have too many killers in Venezuela,” said head of the Confederacion de Asociaciones Israelitas de Venezuela Salomon Cohen when asked why he believes the Venezuelan Jewish population has dropped by half.
The 55-year-old leader of the Jewish community named the country’s killers as one of three reasons he believes the Jewish numbers have dwindled in the country. Venezuela’s violent crime is a major issue plaguing the country with around 19,000 civilian deaths in 2009, which is almost 3 times higher than Iraq.
The other two reasons he gave for the decreased population were the downfall of the economy and anti-Semitism.
‘We had about 200 hundred attacks on the community,’ said Cohen. ‘When they want to speak about Venezuela negatively they call it the “Israel of South America,’ for instance.’
A huge part of the anti-Semitism in the country is that Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez is a strong ally of Iran, a professed enemy of Israel. Chavez is a strong critic of Israeli policy and broke-off relations with Jerusalem in 2009.
Though differences of opinion are substantial, Cohen believes it is important to keep a dialogue going with the government.
‘We have direct communication with several government ministers and those in charge of providing security. These lines of communication are well established, although we would like to have more.’