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Caracas mayor: Venezuela will restore Israel ties if Chavez falls

Antonio Ledezma, who is in Israel for mayors' conference in Jerusalem, tells Yedioth Ahronoth diplomatic relations will be reestablished if opposition candidate defeats Chavez: 'Our country was one of the to recognize your independence'

 

Venezuela does not want its "historic" relationship with Israel to collapse, Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma told Yedioth Ahronoth in a special interview published Sunday.

 

 

Ledezma (57), who attended last week's mayors' conference in Jerusalem, said the purpose of his visit to Israel was "not to defy the existing government (in Venezuela), but to present issues that are important to me as a person who believes in democracy and freedom of expression. I fear that Venezuela's democratic values will be undermined."

 

The mayor is one of the leaders of the opposition to President Hugo Chavez, who frequently criticizes Israel and constantly strengthens the South American country's ties with Iran, the Jewish state's arch enemy.

 

Venezuela severed its diplomatic relations with Israel in 2009 following Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. Ledezma refrained from criticizing Chavez directly, but he did say that "in contrast to the current political policy in Venezuela, I wish to convey the message that the Venezuelan nation has respect for Israel.

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