August 23, 2005

U.S. evangelist calls for assassination of Chavez

By Jackie Frank

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Conservative U.S. evangelist Pat
Robertson called for the assassination of Venezuelan President
Hugo Chavez, but top U.S. officials denied on Tuesday that any
such act was being contemplated -- and noted it would be

The founder of the Christian Coalition said during the
Monday night television broadcast of his religious program,
"The 700 Club," that Chavez, one the most vocal critics of
President George W. Bush, was a "terrific danger" to the United
States and wanted his country to become "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," Robertson said.

"We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one,
you know, strong-arm dictator," he continued. "It's a whole lot
easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and
then get it over with."

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld dismissed Robertson's

"Certainly it's against the law. Our department doesn't do
that type of thing," Rumsfeld told reporters in response to a

Both he and State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said
the remarks were from a private citizen and did not represent
the U.S. government position. "Private citizens say all kinds
of things all the time," Rumsfeld added.

In Caracas, Venezuelan 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 leftist Chavez has often accused the United States of
plotting his overthrow or assassination. Alongside his ally
Cuban leader Fidel Castro in Havana on Sunday, Chavez scoffed
at the idea that he and Castro were destabilizing troublemakers
in Latin America.

While McCormack reiterated U.S. concern over Venezuela's
"behavior" toward some of its neighbors, he added:

"Any accusations or any idea that we are planning to take
hostile action against Venezuela or the Venezuelan government
-- any ideas in that regard are totally without fact and


In his broadcast, Robertson said: "You know, I don't know
about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're
trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go
ahead and do it.

"It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war ... and I
don't think any oil shipments will stop."

Venezuela is the world's fifth largest oil exporter and a
major supplier to the United States.

A Robertson spokeswoman said he had no further comment at
this point.

"Right now Dr. Robertson does not have a statement and he's
not doing any media interviews," she said.

The Rev. Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of
Church and State urged Bush to condemn Robertson's comments.
"This is just the kind of religious fanaticism that the world
does not need more of," Lynn said.

This was the most recent example of Robertson's
controversial remarks. Criticizing the State Department in
2003, he said "maybe we need a very small nuke thrown off on
Foggy Bottom to shake things up."

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher had called the
remark "despicable."

Late in the 2004 presidential race, Robertson told CNN that
during a meeting with Bush prior to the invasion of Iraq, the
president told him he did not believe there would be
casualties. The White House strongly denied the claim.

Robertson's "700 Club" reaches an average of 1 million
American viewers daily, according to his Web site. He ran for
the Republican Party's presidential nomination in 1988.