Engel slams Chavez after shul attack

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Western Hemisphere subcommittee berated Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for the "environment of fear" he has created for Jews in his country.

"We write to express our profound concern about the recent attack on a synagogue in Caracas and to condemn in the strongest possible terms this brazen assault on the Jewish community of Venezuela," said the letter, sent this week by U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and co-signed by 15 other members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "We believe that the attack, which occurred last Friday night during the Jewish Sabbath, is a direct result of the dangerous environment of fear and intimidation against the Jewish community which your government has fostered."

The letter said Chavez had tried to bully Venezuela’s Jews into condemning Israel’s conduct in the recent Gaza Strip war and quoted him comparing Israel to the Nazis.

"We can only conclude that you are engaging in a calculated campaign of fear and intimidation designed to make the Jewish community so uncomfortable in their homes and in their country that they will leave Venezuela," the letter said.

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