On the Monday, August 23, 2005 edition of "The 700 Club," Reverend Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition who was also a 1988 candidate for the Republican nomination for president, said that Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela, would make his nation "a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism all over the continent." And then he went on, inciting an international firestorm, with remarks that Venezuelan Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel called "terrorist statements."
"We don't need another $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 ... 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. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war ... and I don't think any oil shipments will stop," said Reverend Robertson.
Mr. Rangel said the U.S. response to Reverend Robertson's comments would be a test of American anti-terrorism policies, "The ball is in the U.S. court, after this criminal statement by a citizen of that country." Mr. Rangel also said, "This is a huge hypocrisy to maintain an anti-terrorist line and at the same time have such terrorist statements as these made by Christian preacher Pat Robertson coming from the same country."
While speaking with reporters in Montego Bay, Jamaica, Mr. Chavez compared Reverend Robertson and other critics of his government to the "rather mad dogs with rabies," that chased after the main characters in Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quixote.
Mr. Chavez has, on numerous occasions, accused the United States of backing a plan to assassinate him, an accusation that Bush administration officials have denied.
Mr. Chavez regularly criticizes President Bush and the U.S., calling President Bush "Mr. Danger," and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice "the imperial lady." The U.S. has accused Mr. Chavez of behaving in an undemocratic manner, but Ms. Rice was careful not to call him any names during a trip to Latin America earlier this year.
Mr. Chavez has threatened to cut off oil exports to the U.S. if it supports any efforts to overthrow him, which is no small threat when the price of gasoline is hovering around $3 per gallon. Venezuelan exports account for 8% (1.3 million barrels per day) of the U.S. total supply of oil.