Will the next President of Venezuela be Jewish? Hugo Chavez handily won reelection in October 2012 by a margin of 10 percentage points. However, just months later, Chavez languishes in a Cuban hospital, suffering from what is likely terminal cancer. Henrique Capriles, Chavez’s opponent last election,won re-election as governor of the state of Miranda. Should Chavez succumb to cancer, Capriles will likely face off against his successor. Although little mentioned, Capriles would likely be the first Jewish head of state in the Western Hemisphere.
Although Capriles is known as a staunch Catholic, both his mother and grandmother are Jewish. In fact, his grandparents escaped the Holocaust by fleeing to Venezuela. However, two of his great-grandparents perished in a concentration camp. According to traditional Jewish law, a child born to a Jewish mother is considered Jewish. A person such as Capriles remains Jewish even if identifying with another religious faith.
Leftists within Venezuela have already begun linking Capriles to Zionism, as if support of the right to a Jewish homeland mars one’s character. Apparently, these progressives would rather have a leader align himself with Iranian President Ahmadinejad, as Hugo Chavez eagerly does. Sadly, anti-Semitism in Venezuela permeates both the left-wing media and the United Socialist Party, thanks to Hugo Chavez.
Before condemning Capriles for being Jewish, maybe Venezuela’s progressive pundits should consider a few of the world’s past experiences with Jewish leaders. Egypt survived a famine through the wise planning of Joseph, who served as second-in-command to the Pharaoh. Esther, a Persian queen, saved much of the Persian population from extinction at the hands of an evil government minister, Haman. And in modern times, Benjamin Disraeli, the British prime minister, helped guide important worker safety and food safety reforms through parliament.
Venezuelans should resist the peddlers of bigotry. If Capriles is the best candidate to rescue the nation from its experiment with dictatorship, race should not be a deterrent.