Over the last several years, there has been a great deal of concern regarding the human rights situation in Venezuela, particularly as it pertains to the country’s Jewish community. Jewish institutions have been attacked and antisemitic public statements have been made by Venezuelan state media and government officials. Venezuela’s ties to Iran and lack of adherence to the sanctions regime designed to thwart the Islamic Republic’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is a further issue of grave concern. The Government of Canada has been seized of these issues and has taken proactive steps to address them, including Canadian representation of Israel’s consular interests in Venezuela following the country’s breaking off relations with Israel in 2009.
In March 2010, in the wake of several attacks against Venezuela’s Jewish community and actions by the Government of Venezuela to clamp down on its critics, the Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development decided to study the human rights situation in the country, including a focus on antisemitism. In June 2012, the committee issued a report on the human rights situation in Venezuela, making a number of recommendations for government action. The following are the Government of Canada’s responses to those recommendations of particular relevance to the Jewish community.
The Subcommittee recommends that the Government of Canada urge the Government of Venezuela to conduct an independent investigation into the 2004, 2007 and 2009 attacks on synagogues and Jewish community centres in the country with a view to bringing the perpetrators to justice.
The Subcommittee recommends that the Government of Canada continue to monitor, with the utmost attention, the situation facing Venezuela’s Jewish community and intervene, when appropriate, when violent acts are committed against the community and when anti-Semitic comments are made publicly either by members of the media or by government officials.
The Government of Canada will continue, as it did during its contribution to Venezuela’s Universal Periodic Review in 2010, to raise concerns about accountability in Venezuela, including for attacks on synagogues and Jewish community centres. The Embassy maintains close contact with Jewish community leaders.
The Government of Canada will continue to monitor and intervene, when appropriate, with regard to violent attacks or anti-Semitic comments against the Jewish community in Venezuela. As an example, in 2011 an offensive article which appeared on a Government website was removed following an intervention by the Embassy of Canada. 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 centres.
Canada currently represents Israel’s consular interests in Venezuela, in accordance with the Vienna convention. The Canadian Embassy in Caracas currently hosts one local employee who assists with the applications for Israeli visas and passports.
The soon-to-be-created Office of Religious Freedom, a foreign policy priority, may be a source of assistance in ensuring the Venezuelan Jewish community is respected and protected.
The Subcommittee recommends that the Government of Canada strongly remind the Government of Venezuela that all members of the international community have an obligation to enforce the international sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council against the Government of Iran as a result of its nuclear weapons program.
The Government of Canada will continue to emphasize the importance that all states, including Venezuela, respect the international sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council against the Government of Iran as a result of its nuclear weapons program.