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Engel slams Chavez on ‘genocidal’ slur

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Latin American subcommittee slammed Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for calling Israel a "genocidal" state.

Chavez, who is hosting Syrian President Bashar Assad this week, described their countries as having "common enemies": "The Yankee empire, the genocidal state of Israel."

U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said Chavez needed to distract attention from his own problems.

"If my country had the one of the highest murder rates in the world, the highest inflation rate in Latin America, and an economy which is expected to shrink by more than 6 percent this year, I, too, would be talking about anything but what’s going on at home," Engel said. "I guess that’s why Mr. Chavez is attacking the Israelis and why Foreign Policy Magazine just ranked him the 17th worst dictator in the world. And I guess that’s why he’s hanging around Bashar Assad … No. 12."

B’nai B’rith International also condemned the remarks.

"This meeting was a political move by Venezuela to form an additional partnership with another Middle East state sponsor of terrorism," B’nai B’rith executive vice president Daniel Mariaschin said, referring to Chavez’s closeness to the Iranian regime. "We call on the civilized world to unite together and oppose this language in the strongest of terms."

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