Venezuela Wants Pat Robertson

Rev. Jesse Jackson, US civil rights leader, embraces Hugo Chavez, as Venezuela President, Caracas, Venezuela, video still, 8-28-05 AP

President Hugo Chavez said Sunday that his government may ask the United States to extradite U.S. religious broadcaster Pat Robertson to Venezuela for suggesting American agents should kill him.

Earlier Sunday, Rev. Jesse Jackson offered support for Chavez, saying the televangelist's call for the Venezuelan leader's assassination was a criminal act.

The U.S. civil rights leader, who is on a four-day visit to Venezuela, called Robertson's statements "immoral" and "illegal." He urged U.S. authorities to take action, and said the U.S. government must choose "diplomacy over any threats of sabotage or isolation or assassination."

Sunday, speaking to foreign delegations attending a meeting of the Organization of American States in Caracas, Chavez said Venezuela will "exercise legal action in the United States" against Robertson.

"Calling for the assassination of a head of state is a terrorist act," said Chavez, an outspoken critic of President Bush who has forged strong relations with communist-led Cuba.

"We could even request his extradition," he added.

Chavez told OAS delegates that Venezuela would consider bringing the issue to United Nations if the U.S. government failed to cooperate.

Robertson's comments last week have increased already tense relations between Caracas and Washington. On his TV show "The 700 Club," Robertson said Chavez "is a dangerous enemy to our south, controlling a huge pool of oil that could hurt us very badly. We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability. We don't need another 200-billion-dollar war to get rid of one 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."

Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition of America, later issued an apology. "Is it right to call for assassination?," said Robertson, in a statement issued after an international furor over his remarks earlier in the week. "No, and I apologize for that statement. I spoke in frustration that we should accommodate the man who thinks the U.S. is out to kill him."
Last Tuesday, the Bush administration swiftly distanced itself from Robertson's comments. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack called the remarks "inappropriate."

Venezuela has demanded a stronger condemnation of Robertson's remarks.

"We could offer him free psychiatric treatment ... but he could be a lost case" Chavez said sarcastically of Robertson and controversial statements the conservative commentator has made in the past.

Last year, Robertson said President Bush told him before the Iraq invasion: "We're not going to have any casualties," but that "the Lord told me it was going to be (a) a disaster and (b) messy." The White House issued denials.
  • Gina Pace

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