BUENOS AIRES — Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez, an ally of Iran, won re-election, defeating Henrique Capriles Radonski, the grandson of Holocaust survivors.
Chavez took 54 per cent of the vote to Radonski’s 45 per cent in the Oct. 7 poll. His term will end in 2019, extending his rule over the OPEC member state to two decades.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center expressed its concern over Chavez’s re-election, citing the fact that Venezuela has Shahab 3 long-range missile launching platforms on the country’s Caribbean coast aimed at Florida.
“Hugo Chavez’s triumph can only strengthen Iran’s political and military penetration of Latin America,“ Dr. Shimon Samuels, director of international relations for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told JTA on Tuesday.
“Six more years of the Caracas-Tehran axis could be as perilous as an Afghanistan with oil,” he added.
Argentina’s president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, used Twitter to congratulate her regional ally.
“Your victory is also ours. Go Hugo,” she tweeted.
Sergio Widder, the Wiesenthal Center’s director for Latin America, told JTA that “Chavez reportedly facilitated the recent dialogue between Argentina and Iran, clearly aimed at closing both the AMIA Jewish Center bombing investigation and Buenos Aires’ demand for extradition of the Iranians complicit in that atrocity.”
Since taking power in 1999, Chavez has become a global “anti-imperialism” fighter and a close ally of leaders from Iran, Cuba, Bolivia and Belarus. Chavez, a former soldier, has described Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians as “genocide” and called Zionism racism.
Last July, Venezuela was accepted as a full member of the Mercosur regional free trade and political group, and will have increased influence in a bloc that also includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. Mercosur’s members all recognize a Palestinian state.