Thursday, August 25, 2005

Assassinate Chavez, Pat Robertson tells a stunned America 

Independent Online Edition > Americas
By Andrew Buncombe in Washington

Pat Robertson, one of the most influential Christian evangelists in the United States, has sparked controversy by calling for the assassination of the left-wing leader of Venezuela.

Mr Robertson, who heads the Christian Coalition and has close links to the White House, said the US should kill President Hugo Chavez because he wanted to turn his Catholic country into "the launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism".

"We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability," Mr Robertson said on the Monday night broadcast of his religious programme The 700 Club. "We don't need another $200bn war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."

Venezuela, whose relationship with the US has become increasingly difficult in recent years, described Mr Robertson's comments as a form of terrorism and called on the White House to condemn them.

Speaking in Caracas, Vice-President Jose Vicente Rangel said: "This is a huge hypocrisy to maintain an anti-terrorist line and at the same time have such terrorist statements as these made by Christian preacher Pat Robertson coming from the same country. The ball is in the US court now, after this criminal statement by a citizen of that country."

Mr Chavez, a failed revolutionary who later won power at the ballot boxes, has long been at odds with the US. In 2002 the Bush administration offered support to Mr Chavez's opponents who briefly overthrew him in a coup. The US also provided money to groups which last year organised a recall vote in a failed effort to dislodge the President.

Mr Chavez, who beat the recall vote as the result of his support among Venezuela's poor, has often accused the US of trying to assassinate him - echoing the claims of one of his closest allies, Fidel Castro, who he was yesterday visiting in Cuba. The US has admitted that during the Sixties it initiated several operations to kill the Cuban leader.

Independent Online Edition > Americas : app2


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