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Venezuelan Police Raided Jewish Center on Eve of Referendum

Police raided Venezuela’s main Jewish social club on the eve of a national referendum.

The raid on La Hebraica late Saturday night occurred just hours before Venezuelans went to the polls to decide on constitutional changes proposed by President Hugo Chavez. The raid was seen as a provocation against the Jewish community, which is almost unanimously opposed to Chavez, a major ally of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and his leftist reforms.

The police raid took place as 900 Jews enjoyed an all-night wedding party at the nearby Union Israelita synagogue in Altamira, an upscale suburb of Caracas.

According to sources, members of the police unit that investigates drug-trafficking and terrorism broke the main gate of La Hebraica in the middle of the night, allegedly looking for weapons and explosives. Officers searched the premises but found nothing, the sources said.

Venezuelans on Sunday rejected by a narrow margin 69 constitutional amendments proposed by the Chavez government, including eliminating presidential term limits, which would have paved the way for Chavez to be re-elected indefinitely.

Saturday night’s raid echoed one from November 2005, when Venezuelan police raided a Jewish school in Caracas looking for weapons. None were found.

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