A group of squatters forcefully entered a building that houses a synagogue, in a move that anti-government observers say was religiously motivated.
The squatters were peacefully dislodged Monday morning after negotiations with the police and community leaders.
A group of 20 homeless people, including children, broke into the three-story building before sunrise on Monday and occupied some of the vacant apartments on the second and third floors, saying they considered the building unused and would press for the building’s expropriation by the government so that it could be turned into apartments for the homeless.
Representatives of the Jewish community said that there was no damage to Bet Abraham, a synagogue that was established over 10 years ago on the building’s first floor. The building has been undergoing renovations for the last two years, according to reports.
“The action’s objective was not to disturb the normal activities of the synagogue and the protesters did not enter the religious grounds, nor did they act in a disrespectful manner,” said the Venezuelan Confederation of Israelite Associations in a statement.
The confederation said the squatters left the building peacefully after the intervention of the district’s mayor Jorge Rodriguez, who is a member of President Hugo Chavez’s party, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela.
While the confederation it does not believe the action was religiously motivated, anti-government observers pointed out that the squatter’s invasion attempt came a week after Catholic imagery was shot at in another provincial city.
“These people know exactly what they are doing even if they might not know what a synagogue really is,” wrote one anti-government blogger. “But they have heard the anti-Jewish talk of the regime, the anti-Catholic [rhetoric] of Chavez, [and] the unacceptable recomedation [sic] of the ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ on the Venezuelan national state radio no less.”
President Chavez has verbally sparred in the past with the Catholic hierarchy in Venezuela, which has been outspoken in denouncing what it describes as the erosion of democracy under Chavez.