- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 23, 2005

CARACAS, Venezuela — The Rev. Pat Robertson’s call for American agents to assassinate President Hugo Chavez is a “terrorist” statement that should be investigated by U.S. authorities, Venezuela said yesterday.

The Bush administration quickly distanced itself from the religious broadcaster.

Mr. Robertson suggested Monday that the United States “take out” Mr. Chavez to stop Venezuela from becoming a “launching pad for communist influence and Muslim extremism.”

Mr. Chavez, president of the world’s fifth-largest oil exporting country, has accused the United States of conspiring to topple his government and possibly backing plots to assassinate him.

Winding up a visit to Cuba yesterday, Mr. Chavez said he did not have information about Mr. Robertson’s comments. “I don’t even know who that person is,” he said.

But Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel said the U.S. response to Mr. Robertson would be a test of its anti-terrorist policy.

“It’s a huge hypocrisy [for the United States] to maintain this discourse against terrorism and at the same time, in the heart of that country, there are entirely terrorist statements like those,” Mr. Rangel said.

He also said Mr. Robertson’s remarks “reveal that religious fundamentalism is one of the great problems facing humanity in these times.”

In Washington, Venezuelan Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez Herrera also described Mr. Robertson’s remarks as “a call to terrorism.” He demanded that the United States take steps to ensure Mr. Chavez’s safety when he visits New York for a U.N. General Assembly meeting next month.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack called Mr. Robertson’s remarks “inappropriate” and said, “This is not the policy of the United States government. We do not share his views.”

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said: “Our department doesn’t do that kind of thing. It’s against the law. [Mr. Robertson is] a private citizen. Private citizens say all kinds of things all the time.”

Political assassination was put off-limits by former President Gerald R. Ford in an executive order in the mid-1970s.

Successive U.S. administrations have reaffirmed Executive Order 12333, which states, “No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.”

However, several members of Congress have proposed that the order be rescinded in response to the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington.

Mr. Robertson, a founder of the Christian Coalition of America and a supporter of Mr. Bush, said Monday on the Christian Broadcast Network’s “The 700 Club”: “We have the ability to take him [Mr. Chavez] out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability.”

“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.”

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