CARACAS (JTA) — Canada has agreed to Israel’s request to represent its diplomatic and consular interests in Venezuela, according to the Canadian embassy in Caracas.
Venezuela severed diplomatic relations with the Jewish state in January in the wake of Israel’s military incursion into Gaza.
“The Canadian Embassy has encouraged and continues to encourage the Venezuelan government to follow through on its commitment to reject and combat anti-Semitism and to do its utmost to ensure the security of the Jewish community and its religious and cultural centers,” Virginie Levesque, a counselor at the Canadian Embassy in Caracas, told JTA Monday.
Canada will convey diplomatic messages between the Venezuelan and Israeli governments. The two governments are also close to finalizing an agreement regarding which services the Canadian embassy will provide Israeli citizens in Venezuela, Levesque said.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was among the most strident critics of Israel during its Gaza operation, which precipitated a spate of anti-Semitism unusual for the Latin American country.
Following Chavez’s designation of Israel as a “genocidal state,” media outlets closely aligned with his government not only criticized Israel but also demanded that the local Jewish community do the same. The city’s main synagogue was attacked, though local authorities since then have said the incursion was a robbery designed to look like a hate crime.
Levesque said she did not know why the government of Israel approached Canada to represent its interests in Venezuela.
Officials at the Israeli embassy in Canada were unavailable for comment.