- The Washington Times - Monday, August 29, 2005

CARACAS, Venezuela — The Rev. Jesse Jackson yesterday urged President Bush to strongly condemn a U.S. religious broadcaster’s call for the assassination of Venezuela’s leftist president, saying Washington needs to cool down the rhetoric against this South American nation and major oil producer.

The U.S. civil rights leader met with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in private at the presidential palace yesterday, saying beforehand that he hoped to help ease tensions aggravated last week by Pat Robertson’s suggestion that Mr. Chavez ought to be killed.

“We must make it clear that talk of isolating Venezuela, talk of assassinating its leader, this is unacceptable, and it must be denounced roundly by our president and by our secretary of state,” Mr. Jackson said in an interview shortly before meeting with Mr. Chavez.

“The U.S. and Venezuelan leadership must have a detente on rhetoric. That exacerbates tensions,” Mr. Jackson said. “We need to have a cooling down of divisive rhetoric.”

Mr. Chavez, a close ally of Cuban leader Fidel Castro who frequently criticizes what he calls U.S. domination of Latin America, said Sunday night that his government could ask Washington to extradite Mr. Robertson to Venezuela for suggesting U.S. agents kill him.

“Calling for the assassination of a head of state is a terrorist act,” said Mr. Chavez, who regularly has accused the U.S. government and its allies of plotting to overthrow him. The U.S. government denies the charge.

The State Department said yesterday that Venezuela does not appear to have a sound legal basis for extradition.

“I think that’s probably of questionable legal foundation,” spokesman Sean McCormack said.

Mr. Robertson called for Mr. Chavez’s assassination on his TV show “The 700 Club” a week ago, saying the United States should “take him out” because the Venezuelan leader poses a danger to the region.

Mr. Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition of America and a supporter of Mr. Bush’s re-election bid, later apologized.

But Mr. Jackson said that isn’t enough.

“The Pat Robertson statement was the threat that was heard around the world,” Mr. Jackson said. “It reinforces ancient fears because the U.S. has had a policy of eliminating leaders in this region, in Guatemala, in Chile.”

Mr. Jackson, who arrived Saturday for a visit along with members of his Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, cited record-high oil prices as one major reason the U.S. government should seek better relations with Venezuela, which is the world’s fifth-largest oil exporter and a major supplier to the U.S. market.

Mr. Jackson, who also planned to tour one of Venezuela’s state-backed cooperatives today, said his visit had been scheduled about two months ago, long before Mr. Robertson’s remarks.

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