During a visit to the International Tourism Fair in Caracas this week, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced he would meet with leaders of his country's Jewish community and said, "We respect and love the Jewish people."
According to The Atlantic, Chavez added that opponents have falsely depicted him as being "anti-Jewish."
Chavez, a close ally of Iran, severed ties with Israel in January 2009 to protest its naval blockade of Gaza.
The American magazine said people Chavez "has been in touch with overnight" claim his "new rhetoric" and willingness to meet with Jewish leaders is "a direct result" of recent statements made by former Cuban President Fidel Castro during conversations with Jewish reporter Jeffrey Goldberg.
During the interviews, Castro excoriated anti-Semitism and criticized Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for denying the Holocaust. Castro urged Ahmadinejad to "stop slandering the Jews."
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