MIAMI – A nonprofit group has sued Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for alleged acts of terrorism and human rights violations, including conspiring with Colombian guerrillas, al-Qaida and the Taliban.
Freedom Watch, which advocates for ethics in government, filed the lawsuit Wednesday in Miami federal court on behalf of Venezuelan journalist Ricardo Guanipa. According to the filing, Guanipa worked for Radio Marti in Venezuela and received death threats after investigating government corruption. Radio Marti is the U.S. government's broadcast to Cuba, with the stated goal of providing an alternative to the communist island's government-run media.
Guanipa fled Venezuela and received political asylum in the U.S. in 2005. He now lives in Miami. Freedom Watch is seeking class action status for the case in order to include other individuals whom it alleges were also forced to flee Venezuela.
The group has named six other Venezuelan officials as co-defendants, including Vice-President Ramon Alonso Carriales Rengifo.
Chavez laughed heartily as he read aloud a news report about the lawsuit during a summit meeting in Venezuela.
"Lawsuit filed in the United States against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and all his friends," Chavez said, laughing. "A lawsuit in Miami against Hugo Chavez for terrorism, torture, violation of human rights and crimes against humanity."
Chavez didn't respond to any of the accusations. Noting that other top Cabinet officials are also named in the suit, Chavez said "I won't be going there alone."
Freedom Watch attorney Larry Klayman emerged in the 1990s when he founded Judicial Watch and repeatedly sued then-President Bill Clinton and his administration. Klayman's targets have also included former Vice President Dick Cheney, OPEC and Osama bin Laden. Most of his high profile lawsuits have been unsuccessful.
He did win nearly $2 million in a civil lawsuit against the Cuban government over a 1996 incident in which Cuban fighter jets shot down private planes over the Florida Straits, but no money has been paid.