Venezuelan opposition leader appoints rabbi as envoy to Israel


RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) — Venezuela’s opposition leader appointed a diplomatic envoy to Israel, which has joined 50 other nations in recognizing him as the country’s legitimate president.

Juan Guaido, the head of the Venezuelan Congress, named Rabbi Pynchas Brener as a diplomat in Jerusalem, the Spanish-language Aurora news website reported.

Brener, the rabbi emeritus of the Union Israelita de Caracas synagogue and a former chief Ashkenazi rabbi of Venezuela, was approved for the position in a unanimous vote by Congress on Tuesday. Although he will serve in a de facto diplomatic role, his designation to the Israeli government will be “diplomatic envoy.”

The appointment is part of the movement launched by the Venezuelan Congress against Nicolas Maduro in January following his victory in an election that Guaido, the United States, the European Union and other world leaders maintain was fraudulent.

Guaido has already appointed diplomatic envoys to several European nations including the United Kingdom, Germany and France, as well as ambassadors to many countries in the Americas, including the United States, Canada and Brazil. In July, Morocco became the first African nation to welcome a “special envoy” of Guaido.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recognized the new leadership in Venezuela in January. Guaido thanked Netanyahu, comparing the political upheaval in the South American nation with the end of the Holocaust.

Former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez broke off diplomatic relations with Israel in 2009 during its three-week military operation in Gaza named Operation Cast Lead.

Venezuela is home to a fast-shrinking 6,000-member Jewish community. Most Jews have fled to the U.S., Israel or elsewhere.

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