Regime Change By Assassin? Easier Said Than Done.

Hugo Chavez, left, and Fidel Castro with reporters in Havana yesterday.
Hugo Chavez, left, and Fidel Castro with reporters in Havana yesterday. (By Claudia Daut -- Reuters)

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By Lynne Duke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 24, 2005

So Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition, thinks the United States should assassinate Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president.

Let's see. What are our options? The 30-year-old Senate reports of the Church committee give us some options.

How about a vial of poison, as ordered up for a proposed U.S. assassination in 1960 of Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba. Or perhaps supply some weaponry to a local hit squad, as Washington did for those who bumped off Dominican leader Rafael Trujillo.

And let us not overlook Fidel. Oh Fidel, that tough Castro case in Cuba. Through the 1960s, there were eight -- count 'em, eight -- separate U.S. plots to kill him. MOs included a mob hit, poisoned cigars, an exploding seashell and a skin diving suit contaminated with deadly fungi, not to mention various rifles and explosives in the hands of Castro-hating Cuban exiles.

Yet Castro remains with us -- which may prove the point that geopolitical hits are folly or, at least, never easy.

Chavez, wouldn't you know, was in Cuba yesterday, visiting Castro when the Robertson controversy broke. Robertson and some in the Bush administration believe Chavez is Castro's spawn. And Chavez has pumped himself into heroic status with frequent predictions that the United States wants him dead. Robertson, in a tirade against the oil-rich leader, said that Washington should give Chavez what he wants.

But seriously.

It is rare that a public figure would publicly advocate such a radioactive course of action as assassination, which is why the collective eyebrow has been raised over Robertson's statements.

"We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability," Robertson said Monday on the Christian Broadcasting Network show "The 700 Club."

"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."

And in language that immediately induces deja vu, Robertson said that taking out Chavez would stop his country from being "a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism."

We asked Michael Scharf, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University and a former State Department legal adviser, what he thought of this.


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