Notre Dame political scientist Michael Coppedge says Rev. Pat Robertsons call for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Frias has actually given legitimacy to Chavezs past claims.
The author ofStrong Parties and Lame Ducks: Presidential Patriarchy and Factionalism inVenezuela,Coppedge said Robertsons remarkstrengthens Chavez’s hand. He has been claiming for years that theU.S.government is planning to assassinate him or overthrow his government, or even invade his country; this statement gives Chavez’s conspiracy theory a shred of credibility inVenezuelaand will help him rally his supporters.
Coppedge added:Although it is true that Robertson is a private citizen and is free to speak his mind, the fact that he is a former presidential candidate and a respected leader among President Bush’s evangelical support base gives extra weight to his opinions. This incident will blow over quickly inWashington, but President Chavez will keep it alive for years inVenezuelaunless the White House repudiates it in the strongest possible terms immediately. At this point, the only act that could kill this rumor inVenezuelawould be a public promise by President Bush himself that theUnited Stateswill never attempt to assassinate President Chavez.
_ Contact: Michael Coppedge, associate professor of political science, can be reached for additional comments at 574-631-7036 or firstname.lastname@example.org _