A class action lawsuit has been filed against Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez by Larry Klayman, founder of the government watchdog group Freedom Watch, seeking damages for “assault, supporting terrorism, crimes against humanity, violations of civil and human rights, torture” and other crimes.
Chavez, however, was amused when he heard about the claims, according to was Fox News.
“Lawsuit filed in the United States against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and all his friend,” Chavez said. The report said he was laughing at the time.
But Klayman, who previously won a nearly $2 million unpaid judgment against Cuban interests in 1996 over the shooting down of an airplane, said he’s serious about the claims and his pursuit of them.
“The stage is set for what is shaping up to be the legal battle of the century to be fought in U.S. District Court in Florida before Judge Cecilia Maria Altonaga, the first Cuban-American woman to be appointed as a federal judge in the United States,” Klayman said.
The case was filed on behalf of a class of victims in Venezuela who allegedly were subjected to torture, threats and massive rights violations by the defendants “and their agents, and also acting in concert with, aiding, abetting, facilitating, soliciting, directing, orchestrating and conspiring with the Colombian paramilitary group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), al-Qaida and the Taliban, and other terrorist groups, nation states and their collaborators in those atrocities.”
The case explains lead plaintiff Ricardo Guanipa is a Venezuelan who was granted political asylum in the U.S. in 2005. He was a radio journalist in Venezuela before being forced to flee for his life, the case said.
“The amount in controversy, both individually and collectively, exceeds $1 billion,” the case claims.
Guanipa reported in the case that he witnessed live ammunition fired at anti-Chavez protesters, including women and children, during a peaceful march in Caracas. Many reporters who reported on such cases later were shot, beaten or arrested, the legal complaint claims.
He said FARC, which has been classified by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organization, has used mines and car bombs in its “guerrilla warfare campaign” against its enemies in the region.
Guanipa said he had evidence in the form of documents, spreadsheets, e-mail texts and other files about the “cooperation between the Venezuelan government, obviously under the direction of the defendants, and the FARC rebel group.”
The evidence, however, was confiscated by the government, the case claims.
Meanwhile, according to United Press International, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has confirmed President Obama is open to the idea of meeting with Chavez.
Gibbs said Obama probably would welcome a face-to-face meeting with the Venezuelan leader.
Freedom Watch says it is “dedicated to not only preserving freedom, but redefining its meaning, from protecting our rights to privacy, free speech, civil liberties, liberty from foreign oil and crooked business, labor and government officials, protecting our national sovereignty against the incompetent, terrorist state controlled United Nations, and reestablishing the rule of law in what has become a very corrupt American legal system, where justice is only as good as your lawyer and judge – most of whom are compromised ethically and otherwise.”
Klayman founded the successful nonprofit group Judicial Watch, then left the organization to pursue a campaign for the U.S. Senate. He later established Freedom Watch.
WND recently reported on a new book about Chavez. In “The Threat Closer to Home: Hugo Chavez and the War Against America,” Douglas E. Schoen and Michael Rowan say the U.S. is oblivious to Chavez’s intentions to use oil as an asymmetric weapon of war, as well as terrorism, in attacks that could rival 9/11 in their impact on the economy and infrastructure of the nation.
Venezuela’s oil reserves are second only to Saudi Arabia’s, they point out, and Chavez has demonstrated a willingness and the ability to manipulate the foreign import market.
“Prior to the summer of 2008, Chavez personally shorted the oil market of 3 million barrels a day,” Schoen and Rowan write. “Leading OPEC (the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries), he had every producing nation but Saudi Arabia following suit.”
They blame Chavez for worsening the economic downturn last year “which may be the worst since the Great Depression.”
“Hugo Chavez is implementing a sophisticated oil war against the United States,” the authors write. “To understand this, you have to look back to 1999, when he asked the Venezuelan Congress for emergency powers and got them, whereupon he consolidated government power to his advantage.”
Chavez took full control of the national oil company, replacing its directors with military and political loyalists.
In addition, through his support of guerrillas in FARC, he has worked to maximize cocaine sales to the U.S. as a means of undermining the cohesiveness of the American culture, critics say.