Unfortunately, no matter how discreet the government tries to pass in front of antisemitism and his more than dubious friendship with Ahmadinejad of Iran, certain telltales signs keep forging unbreakable suspicions of a now more than simply nascent antisemitism in Venezuela. The latest example was during the recent visit this week end of Argentina's first Lady, Cristina Kirchner.
Mrs. Kirchner is widely rumored to be a possible successor to her husband next October. Nobody understands why but it seems that Argentineans do love to have the wives of their leaders in a position of power or power position. They had Evita who did not make it to the top but who certainly was the power behind the throne until cancer took her away. And then Isabelita was Peron vice president and sure enough became the lousy president that allowed the Videla dictatorship to come to power. Peron is gone now but Peronism is not and the Peronist president of Argentina, Nestor Kirchner, happens to have a very strong wife, a senator on her own name and if not a power behind the throne, certainly the power next to it.
I really cannot judge what type of person is Mrs. Kirchner. The Kirchners as a power couple raise many questions in Argentina about their personal power and ambitions and lukewarm love for institutions and democracy. However Argentina is doing well, much better even on many aspects than Venezuela in spite of a horrendous economic crisis a few years ago and no oil to buttress the state coffers. Obviously they are more capable than the selfish entity at Miraflores that cannot even tolerate a wife to steal some of his limelight time. But I digress.
Mrs. Kirchner was visiting Venezuela because she is trying to get some international exposure and experience. Looks good on a wanna-be presidential CV. She was in Ecuador beofre and she was this week end in Caracas to talk about her pet project: antisemitism in the Americas. Some people even went on to write that Mrs. Kirchner visit was to try to improve the relations between the Jewish community and Chavez. For which I had that any deterioration that has happened in these relations had been due solely to Chavez, but I am a nit picker I suppose.
Mrs Kirchner has sensed antisemitism in Argentina, she has been sensitized to it by the AMIA attack of 1994. And she deals with topics that her husband deems better left out of his plate. But Nestor Kirchner is no Chavez on this respect: no friendship with Iran for him even if he seems to share some of the ambitions of Chavez, and arrogance. Kirchner at least seems to be more educated and worldly and preoccupied to achieve something with his rule besides promoting his passage to history books.
So Mrs, Kirchner had a very nice act in Caracas where she seems to have said all the right things to make sure Jews in Latin America felt that not everyone hated them. Short blurb in English here and the longer Spanish version here. Very timely in Venezuela as this blog has had too often had to report on disturbing antisemitic tendencies in the current Chavez administration.
But the visit revealed that there was definitely a "malaise" about the visit and its goal. To begin with if the reunion between Cristina Kirchner and leaders of the Venezuelan and Latin American Jewish communities was attended by personalities such as Teodoro Petkoff, no high ranking Chavez official attended. Sure enough they did not want to hear about the 8 high ranking Iranians for which Argentina is seeking international arrest for the AMIA bombing. Nor the Hezbollah terrorist that Argentina also seeks to bring to Argentinian courts for trial. Such evidence while Chavez and Iran are trying to deepen their relationship is not what chavismo wants to hear. Nor probably would they have liked to hear Cristina reminding them of Curaçao Jews helping Simon Bolivar, nor her comment that political dissent were the first ones sent to concentration camps.
Cristina Kirchner was received also by Chavez but we do not know what happened during that meeting. He certainly praises her in public but it is everyone guess what transpired there. Though it is possible that Chavez is trying to use her not to mend his frayed relations with the Jewish community, he could not care less and he has long cast his lot against Israel. But rather to buy some peace from Jewish quarters while he changes the constitution and establishes his personal and permanent power in Venezuela. He does not need "Jewish press" on his case for the next few months and editorials like the NYT a few days ago is something he needs to avoid.
Also, it possible that Cristina came to give Hugo a friendly warning over Iran, to try to convince him that he does not need to tie his ship to Ahmadinejad and risk sinking together. Can Chavez understand that? I doubt it.