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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chavez Responds to U.S. Preacher's Call for Death

CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuela condemned American religious broadcaster Pat Robertson for suggesting President Hugo Chavez should be killed, saying he committed a crime that is punishable in the United States.

Officials in Washington distanced themselves from Robertson, saying his statements did not reflect the position of the U.S. government.

On Monday, Robertson said on the Christian Broadcast Network's "The 700 Club": "We have the ability to take him [Chavez] out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability."

"We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one ... strong-arm dictator," he said. "It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."

Venezuelan Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel on Tuesday said the country was considering legal action against Robertson for saying U.S. agents should "take out" Chavez.

"There is a legal measure in the United States that condemns and punishes statements of this nature," Rangel said, referring to laws dealing with television broadcasts. "It's a huge hypocrisy to maintain this discourse against terrorism and at the same time, in the heart of that country, there are entirely terrorist statements like those."

Robertson said Chavez should be assassinated to stop Venezuela from becoming a "launching pad for communist influence and Muslim extremism."

Chavez, speaking to reporters Tuesday in Jamaica, compared Robertson and other critics of his government to the "rather mad dogs with rabies" that chased after the main characters in "Don Quixote." "The dogs bark ... because we are advancing," Chavez said.

Earlier Tuesday in Cuba, when asked about Robertson's comments, Chavez said he would prefer to "talk about life."

"What they say doesn't matter to me a bit," the Venezuelan leader said.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said he knew of no consideration ever being given to the idea of assassinating Chavez. "Our department doesn't do that kind of thing. It's against the law," he said. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack called Robertson's remarks "inappropriate."

"This is not the policy of the United States government. We do not share his views," McCormack said. Political assassination was made illegal by an executive order in the mid-1970s.

Chavez has accused Washington of backing a short-lived 2002 coup against him, a charge U.S. officials have denied.