Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Robertson Repudiated, big time

Statement by Global Exchange, August 23rd, 2005



Global Exchange strongly condemns the actions of extremist right-wing televangelist and Bush supporter Pat Robertson in his call for the assassination of democratically-elected President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela. Global Exchange calls on Pat Robertson to immediately retract his outrageous statement. Pat Robertson, a candidate for the GOP´s Presidential nomination in 1992, along with the millions of supporters of his 700 Club, are a key constituency of the Republican Party.

Global Exchange, an international human rights organization, also calls on President Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to condemn in the strongest terms possible these immoral statements of a leader of their political base, which make a mockery of Christianity and give lie to the Republican claims that they stand for the right to life. State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack today merely referred to Robertson’s statement as “inappropriate”. “Calling for terrorist homicide against a democratically-elected president is not “inappropriate”; it is illegal, immoral, and must be condemned in the strongest language possible,” said Deborah James, Global Economy Director of Global Exchange.

Pat Robertson should be investigated and potentially prosecuted for calling for the murder of a democratically-elected head of state. Under Title 18 of US Code Section 1116, “whoever kills or attempts to kill a foreign official, official guest, or internationally protected person shall be punished as provided under sections 1111, 1112, and 1113 of this title.” Section 878 of the same title makes it a crime to “knowingly and willingly threaten” to commit the above crime. (italics added) It is incumbent upon the executive to investigate, and potentially prosecute, this wrongdoing by Pat Robertson to the fullest extent of the law.

The US government has been working to create a climate hostile to the democratically-elected government of Venezuela. It is unfortunate that Pat Robertson’s statements are consistent with the actions of the Bush administration. The Bush administration supported the 2002 coup against President Chávez, and has continued to fund coup leaders in their efforts to remove President Chávez from office, even after the coup Recently, the US has stepped up efforts to isolate Venezuela in the region.  In August 2004, President Chávez won a referendum on his presidency by 59%, results which were certified by the OAS and Carter Center, and his popularity currently stands at over 70%. Yet earlier this week, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld continued the Bush administration’s rhetorical assault against President Chávez, re-issuing old and unsupported claims regarding Venezuela. The US government’s ongoing hostility towards President Chávez have created the climate in which a Republican leader, a former candidate for the Republican nomination for president feels comfortable in calling for the United States to kill an elected head of state. If the US government wishes to give a veneer of credibility to its claims that they are not planning to kill President Chávez, it must forcefully condemn and initiate legal action against a key Republican ally for openly calling for his assassination.  

The US government’s hostility towards Venezuela stems more from that country’s creation of an alternative economic vision for the hemisphere than any unsubstantiated concerns about democracy. President Chávez has embarked on a series of economic reforms, such as funneling billions of oil industry profits into massive programs for health care, education, literacy, and clean water, and promoting regional integration, which fly in the face of Bush administration’s failed efforts to promote corporate globalization by establishing a Free Trade Area of the Americas. “The US government’s dislike for Chávez’s vision of a national economy that delivers development rather than free trade does not give the US government – or US government supporters - a license to kill,” said Deborah James.

The US government has obligations under international law to prevent and punish acts of terrorism against foreign heads of state if those acts are conceived of or planned on US territory. The 1973 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes Against Internationally Protected Persons makes it a crime to commit a “murder, kidnapping, or other attack upon on the liberty of an internationally protected person; .. [including] a “threat to commit any such attack.” An internationally protected person means a head of state (or other specified persons.)

The US is also a signatory to the 1971 Convention to Prevent and Punish Acts of Terrorism Taking the Form of Crimes Against Persons and Related Extortion that are of International Significance of the Organization of the American States, Article 8a of which obliges “[t]he contracting states undertake to cooperate among themselves by taking all the measures that they may consider effective, under their own laws, and especially those established in this convention, to prevent and punish acts of terrorism, especially kidnaping [sic], murder, and other assaults against the life or physical integrity of those persons to whom the state has the duty according to international law to give special protection, as well as extortion in connection with those crimes.” (italics added.) This includes foreign heads of state as internationally protected persons.

Global Exchange also calls for the investigation of the Christian Broadcasting Network for the potential illegality of using federally licensed airwaves to call for the assassination of a democratically-elected head of state. In light of the $550,000 fine against CBS for the accidental airing of a “wardrobe malfunction”, it would be ironic in the extreme if the CBN were not to be similarly punished for airing a call for terrorist homicide.


3. Televangelist Calls for Chavez' Death
Associated Press
08/22/2005  22:06:32 EST

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson called on Monday for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, calling him a "terrific danger" to the United States.

Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition of America and a former presidential candidate, said on "The 700 Club" it was the United States' duty to stop Chavez from making Venezuela a "launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism."

Chavez has emerged as one of the most outspoken critics of President Bush, accusing the United States of conspiring to topple his government and possibly backing plots to assassinate him. U.S. officials have called the accusations ridiculous.

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

Electronic pages and a message to a Robertson spokeswoman were not immediately returned Monday evening.

Venezuela is the fifth largest oil exporter and a major supplier of oil to the United States. The CIA estimates that U.S. markets absorb almost 59 percent of Venezuela's total exports.

Venezuela's government has demanded in the past that the United States crack down on Cuban and Venezuelan "terrorists" in Florida who they say are conspiring against Chavez.

Robertson accused the United States of failing to act when Chavez was briefly overthrown in 2002.

"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."


4. Why Pat Robertson's Statements Help Hugo Chavez
The Venezuelan President has long thrived on criticism from the U.S.


Time Online
Posted Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2005

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has a new best friend this morning: television evangelist Pat Robertson. With his astonishing call for the left-wing leader's assassination last night—"I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it...We have the ability to take him out"—Robertson will have surely made Chavez an even more popular anti-yanqui icon in Venezuela, Latin America and around the world. Like his mentor Fidel Castro, Chavez thrives on threats from the U.S., real or perceived. He has long insisted that his foes are plotting to kill him, and this summer had armed civilians training with the Venezuelan military to prepare for what he says is an imminent U.S. invasion. A public effort to whack him, offered from the right-wing Christian establishment so closely aligned with President Bush, is just what Chavez needs to keep his approval ratings soaring as high as the price of the Venezuelan oil he controls, the largest crude reserves in the hemisphere.

Chavez is no doubt a source of concern for Washington, if only because Venezuela is America's fourth-largest foreign oil supplier Chavez's erratic and often bellicose anti-U.S. rhetoric—he publicly called Bush an "ass____" in Spanish last year—as well as his desire to sell less oil to the U.S. and more to ideological allies like China, are hardly comforting as gas nears $3 per gallon. But neither is Chavez's embrace of nations like Iran, and nor is the fact that he's leading a politically potent (and, to the Bush Administration, potentially destabilizing) wave of angry neo-leftism in Latin America, from Argentina to Mexico.

But Chavez holds cards that make remarks like Robertson's all the more incendiary on the Latin American street, where language like "U.S. imperialism" suddenly has currency again. One is the past: Latin Americans have too many vivid and bitter memories of U.S. intervention in their countries—operations that sometimes included brazen assassinations <> —which is why the Bush Administration got burned by accusations it backed a failed coup against Chavez in 2002. Another is democratic legitimacy: Chavez, for all his authoritarian tendencies, is a democratically elected head of state who last year won a national recall referendum approved by international observers.

Perhaps an even more important factor is populist backing: leftism is on the rise again in Latin America for a reason, namely the burgeoning feeling around the region that a decade of U.S.-backed capitalist reforms has simply widened an already epic gap between rich and poor—and that the Bush Administration is indifferent to it. As Chavez uses his multi-billion-dollar oil revenues to fund the kind of social projects that Venezuela's legions of impoverished never saw <,9171,1101040726-665069,00.html> from his kleptocratic predecessors—and to subsidize cheaper oil for his cash-strapped Latin neighbors—more people are willing to defend him, as most Latin leaders did last spring when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice toured South America.

As a result, any cold war-style talk about "taking Chavez out" with "covert operatives," as Robertson suggested, just confers more Che Guevara cachet on the former army lieutenant colonel (who himself led a failed coup in 1992). And since Chavez has threatened to cut off oil exports to the U.S. at the first sign of gringo aggression, it makes America's important Venezuelan oil supply look all the more volatile.

[Editor's note: Chavez called Bush a pendejo, which is translated as "fool" or "jerk" not "ass----". In addition, Chávez has never expressed a desire to sell less oil to the US, just to diversify and sell more oil to other countries while maintaining its US sales.]


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