If you’re a student of World War II history, when you think Nazis and Latin America your mind should race to Argentina. To this day, Argentina has a significant anti-Semitism problem that is fueled by a small, but surprisingly influential group of old guard Nazi and anti-Jewish interests.
The death of Alberto Nisman, the Jewish Argentine prosecutor that has been doggedly pursuing Iranian terrorists for decades, is one of extreme manifestations of a problem that has roots throughout South America and, indeed, all of Latin America.
According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the Western Hemisphere ranks as one of the lowest regions of the the world in anti-Semitic activity; however, I think it is underreported.
Ever since the radical left took over Venezuela in 1999, state-sponsored anti-Semitism has been on the rise in that country and a large number of Jews have left. According to some estimates, about half of Venezuela’s Jewish population has left the country. And while the discrimination is not as intense as, say, the Middle East, it exists and may be spreading. There are pockets of concern in places such as Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Cuba, Panama, Costa Rica and a few other countries in the region that you would not ordinarily associate with anti-Semitism or anti-Jewish thinking such as Mexico.
Fausta’s Blog posted a story this past weekend about a Mexican all-girl dance troupe that performed a Nazi-themed piece at a recent dance competition in Guadalajara, Jalisco. Decked out in drab gray costumes, each dancer wore a red Nazi armband emblazoned with a black swastika (see image at left). At several points during the performance the Nazi flag was prominently and, proudly, displayed. These young women likely have no idea what these symbols represent. It makes you wonder, what would compel parents and instructors to allow it in the first place?
This is not the first public display of neo-Nazi symbolism in the state of Jalisco. Just last year, Mexico’s largest opposition party, the PAN, had to issue a statement distancing itself from neo-nazi activity by a member of its youth group.
According to various media sources, Juan Barrera Espinosa (pictured at left) and a few other young men had created a group called the Movimiento Nacionalista Mexicano del Trabajo (the Mexican Nationalist Workers Party). The very enterprising young men made the announcement on the 125th anniversary of Adolf Hitler’s birthday. I’ve read a few stories about the matter and, depending on the ideological leanings of the news source, the incident was either a foolish prank by misguided youth or a well thought out move by sympathizers of the new National Socialism or Neo-Nazis who urged them to make it so.
When the media caught on to the “prank,” PAN party leaders issued a statement denouncing the incident. The ring leader of the alleged Neo-nazi group told reporters that the MNMT does not exist and that the entire affair was done in “error.” It was a “game” or child’s play, the 20-year old Espinosa said.
According to mainstream Mexican news sources, Espinosa my have had the support of a former Mexican Member of Congress, Gustavo Gonzalez Hernandez. However, I was unable to find any evidence of that except an Universal newspaper story making some, at best, tenuous connection between the two men.
A smear campaign to hurt the Mexican right? Possibly. Yet there was plenty of evidence in the public domain, including postings by these fellow on Facebook, that lead me to conclude that this incident was more than just a prank. Anyhow, the Mexican media wasted no time attempting to link the MNMT incident to the conservative PAN party and the Catholic Church and, I bet, they will try to do the same with the dance group if they can.
As a conservative who has traveled throughout the region or met in Washington, DC with political leaders from Latin America for many years, every now and then I’ve noted a slight anti-Israel bias. It is the exception, not the rule. However, whether left or right, political parties throughout Latin America need to take steps to better educate its future leaders about foreign policy, especially the Middle East and how it factors in to other global issues. Yet this cannot substitute teaching values at home. Both of these recent events in Mexico are not rooted politics or governments, but in parenting. While I hope that these kids learned a lesson from all this, judging from the media coverage, I doubt that they have.