Burn, baby, burn…

Disco Inferno? Nope…just the yearly Venezuelan custom of Burning the Judas.

Exxon as Judas

In a political take on a popular Easter ritual, hundreds of Venezuelans cheered at the burning of an “Judas” effigy symbolizing oil giant Exxon Mobil, which last week lost a battle with the South American nation.

With a pink face, sculpted hair and wearing a pair of aviator-style sunglasses, the model packed with fireworks was hoisted up a pole and set ablaze with a flaming torch on Sunday while African-inspired dancers swayed to fast drum rhythms.

Pinned to the effigy’s gasoline-soaked two piece suit a sign read “Mister Exxon.”

A British judge last Tuesday lifted a $12 billion freeze on Venezuelan assets awarded to Exxon, dealing a blow to the oil giant in its fight with the OPEC nation over President Hugo Chavez’s nationalization crusade.

“They under-estimated our country,” said Jorge Loaisa, 67, who headed a committee that organized Sunday’s event in the Caracas neighborhood El Cementerio, which was sponsored by the mayor of Caracas, an ally of the socialist Chavez.

It was part of a widespread Venezuelan Holy Week tradition where mainly poor neighborhoods burn effigies to represent Judas Iscariot, who the Bible says betrayed Jesus Christ. The effigies are often modeled on political figures.

And of course, Reuters just couldn’t resist pulling out a canard which has long been disproved but is still floating free through cyberspace:

Judas effigies are burnt in villages and towns in several Latin American countries and in parts of Greece. Anthropologists say the practice serves a symbolic function to overcome divisions and unite communities around a common enemy. The tradition has sometimes been described as anti-Semitic.

Of course, they don’t say by whom or why. Why should they? As long as they get it out that the burning of Judas is “political” (which it long has been anyway, although the Judas burned is usually a crooked local politician in effigy) and they can insinuate that this rite is antisemitic and that antisemitism has something to do with Chavez, well…Mission Accomplished.

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