eyes on the U.S.

Former US Envoy To Venezuela Slams Maduro For Accusing Him Of Murder Plot

EL PAIS (Spain); TELESUR (Venezuela); REUTERS


WASHINGTON - Late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez never tired of accusing the U.S. government of all types of nefarious deeds. His hand-picked successor, acting president Nicolas Maduro, is keeping up the tradition.

First, days after Chavez's death, Maduro accused Washington of somehow infecting "El Comandante" with his fatal cancer. Then, perhaps even more strangely, the interim head of state said Sunday that there was a murder plot to kill Henrique Capriles, his own opponent in next month's presidential race.

Speaking on state TV station Telesur, Maduro even accused former US Ambassador to Venezuela Otto Reich and former Bush Administration official Roger Noriega of the supposed plot, in order to “fill Venezuelans with hate” ahead of the April 14 election.

On Thursday, Reich, who is now a Washington-based international consultant, fired back with an open letter published in top Spanish daily El Pais. “Dear Mr Maduro, I’m responding to your most recent allegations. Don’t worry, this is not a threat to you; you’re making things up and what follows is my response to them,” the letter reads. “No, Mr Maduro, I did not have anything to do with with the cancer that killed Hugo Chávez, nor do I have any intention to assault Mr. Henrique Capriles (nor any other citizen of your country). These allegations by you can only have two explanations: either you don’t know the truth or you don’t know how to tell the difference between the truth and lies. You tell me which it is.”

Otto Reich. Photo by US State Dept.

Reich suggests that these accusations were made because Maduro wanted to distract his country from the disasters that his party has subjected the country to over the last 14 years.

“Your accusations are so far from reality that we must ask what is their true purpose -- what are you hiding behind this smokescreen? Could it be that your government is planning to eliminate Capriles, as others who have challenged your monopoly have been?”

Reich writes that Maduro’s tactics echo those Chavez employed over the years. “Every day that you make these accusations is another day that Venezuelans don’t hear that there is a viable alternative for peace, honor and prosperity for their country.”

Full text of letter in Spanish here, published by El Pais

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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