On Monday, August 22, television preacher Pat Robertson declared:
"You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if [Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez] thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war."That comment brought condemnation from many, and was repudiated by US government officials, but it has created a political firestorm in El Salvador. Schafik Handal, the FMLN leader, was in Cuba to attend the graduation of a class of doctors from medical school on the day Robertson's remarks were made. Hugo Chavez was also there. Handal was a guest on a call-in show "Aló Presidente!" which Chavez broadcasts. In response to questions about Pat Robertson's remarks, Handal stated that El Salvador would send hundreds, even thousands of combatants to support Venezuela if it was attacked by the US.
Tony Saca immediately condemned Handal's remarks, asserting that only the president of the country could decide when to commit Salvadorans to war. Saca asserted that Handal's comments showed that the FMLN had not freed itself from a war-like mentality. Meanwhile ARENA deputies in the National Assembly have called for an investigation of the FMLN. The deputies assert that the comments of Handal must mean that the FMLN has weapons hidden in the country. Tony Saca has suggested that there should be an investigation by both the legislature and the Attorney General.