US Christian extremist branded a terrorist
ABC.net.au | August 24 2005
By Michael Rowland
This is a transcript from AM. The program is broadcast around Australia at 08:00 on ABC Local Radio.
TONY EASTLEY: When a foreign religious leader calls for the death of another country's democratically elected head of state, it usually raises the spectre of international terrorism.
Relations between the United States and the key oil producing nation of Venezuela have taken a turn for the worse after American Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson called on the US to assassinate Venezuela's President, Hugo Chavez.
Mr Robertson says the killing of Mr Chavez, an outspoken critic of America's foreign policy, would be much cheaper than starting another expensive war to remove a 'dangerous dictator'.
There's been outrage in Venezuela, with the country's Vice-President calling on the Bush administration to disavow such 'criminal' and 'terrorist' statements.
North America Correspondent Michael Rowland reports.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Pat Robertson has built a career on making provocative statements. In the past, the founder of the Christian Coalition of America and former Republican presidential candidate has likened activist judges to terrorists and claimed feminism encouraged women to kill their children and become lesbians.
But now this man of God has triggered a diplomatic incident with some decidedly un-Christian comments about Venezuela's firebrand left-wing president, Hugo Chavez.
PAT ROBERTSON: We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: In an appearance on his Christian broadcast network, Mr Robertson said President Chavez needed to be stopped from using Venezuela as a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism
PAT ROBERTSON: We don't need another US $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, 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.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Needless to say the comments haven't gone down at all well in Venezuela. Vice President Jose Vincente Rangel described as terrorist statements and there was this from Venezuela's Ambassador to the US, Bernardo Alvarez Herrera:
BERNARDO ALVAREZ HERRERA: I mean, for any Christian, including ourselves, this is not the way we read the bible. It's clearly established in the bible that you don't kill anybody.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: In Washington, US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, while conceding US-Venezuelan relations weren't the best, quickly disavowed Pat Robertson's inflammatory words.
SEAN MCCORMACK: These comments are inappropriate. They do not represent the policy of the United States and I would add that any accusations, or any idea that we are planning to take hostile action against Venezuela or the Venezuelan Government are totally without fact, and baseless.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Hugo Chavez himself is no stranger to provocative rhetoric. Just a couple of weeks ago the former army paratrooper described the United States as the most savage, cruel and murderous empire that's existed in the history of the world and said George Bush was a Lord of War.
TONY EASTLEY: Michael Rowland reporting from Washington.