Bob Unruh joined WND in 2006 after nearly three decades with the Associated Press, as well as several Upper Midwest newspapers, where he covered everything from legislative battles and sports to tornadoes and homicidal survivalists. He is also a photographer whose scenic work has been used commercially.More ↓Less ↑
The case originally was 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 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 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.”
Klayman now has announced the addition of CITGO as a defendant.
CITGO, Venezuela’s oil company that sells, among other products, gasoline in the United States, provides revenues for Chavez and his comrades “to not only support terrorism, but torture and continue to violate the human rights of his own people,” Klayman said.
“Use of oil revenues, directly and indirectly, to support terrorism ironically was discussed by former Senator Gary Hart, a terrorism expert, on … ‘Washington Journal’ on C-Span,” Klayman said. “It is widely known and accepted that Chavez supports the Colombian FARC and several Middle Eastern terrorist states and groups, such as Hamas and Hezbollah, in his world wide quest to spread his communist dogma and influence.”
The class action lawsuit seeks more than $1 billion in damages for the victims, as well as punitive damages.
A spokesman for CITGO declined WND’s request for a comment.
“By joining CITGO as a defendant, payment of the eventual judgment will be assured, as its revenue sources flow through U.S. commerce,” Klayman’s announcement said. “In addition, the amended complaint seeks to have CITGO enjoined from further activities in support of terrorist causes and requests a full audit, paid for by CITGO but through independent accountants, of its financial books and records, both in this country and in Venezuela.”
“The people of Venezuela and the world have been terrorized by Chavez and his communist/terrorist henchmen for too long,” Klayman said. “Recently, political adversaries have been indicted for no reason, books about freedom and capitalism destroyed in public libraries in Venezuela and other measures intended to cement Chavez as the ‘Maximum Leader’ for his lifetime.
“All the while he continues, through oil revenues and other means, to support terrorist countries and groups bent on destroying capitalism and the West in general,” Klayman said.
Klayman noted that the case is to be heard by Judge Cecilia Maria Altonaga, the first Cuban-American woman to be appointed as a federal judge in the U.S. She serves in the U.S. District Court in Florida.
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.
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.
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.