Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez expressed his support for embattled Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi in a Twitter post Feb. 25: “Long live Libya and its independence! Qaddafi is facing a civil war!” The Tweet was immediately protested by Venezuela’s opposition, which is also demanding that Qaddafi return a replica of independence hero Simón Bolívar’s sword that Chávez decorated him with when he hosted the Libyan in 2009.
Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro made it clear the government will not request return of the sword. In a statement in response to the demand, he said that Qaddafi “helped consolidate vital organizations that fought for the economic independence of the peoples of the south, he has been vital for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, he has played a fundamental role in the consolidation of the Non-Aligned Movement and his participation was decisive for the construction of the Arab League.” He added that Venezuela wants Libya to preserve ‘its national unity and for the civil war to stop. We stand for the independence, the peace and the sovereignty of the Libyan people.” (DPA, Feb. 25)
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega also voiced his solidarity with Qaddafi, writing on the presidential website Feb. 21 that he had communicated by phone with the Libyan ruler. Speaking at an event honoring Nicaraguan revolutionary Augusto Cesar Sandino, Ortega said Qaddafi is “waging a great battle, seeking dialogue but defending the integrity of the nation.” He darkly suggested that “all types of conspiracies exist” against Libya.
Ortega was awarded the al-Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights in 2009, a Libyan award named for the country’s leader. Other Latin American leaders to win the award are Hugo Chávez (2004), Evo Morales (2000) and Fidel Castro (1998). Last week, Libya forgave some $200 million of Nicaraguan debt.
Marcos Carmona, director of Nicaragua’s Permanent Human Rights Commission (CPDH), protested Ortega’s statement, warning that a genocide may be underway in Libya. He accused Ortega of a “double discourse” for having supported the Egyptian protesters while now closing ranks with the Libyan dictator.
Cuba’s veteran leader Fidel Castro on Feb. 21 issued a statement that stopped short of outright support for Qaddafi, but expressed skepticism at the massacre reports and warned of NATO intervention in Libya. In Bolivia, Evo Morales only said that he called on Qaddafi to let the Libyan “people” find a peaceful resolution to the crisis.
On the other side of the coin, President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia (the hemisphere’s worst human rights abuser) spoke out on the Libyan repression, Tweeting: “What is happening in Libya is unacceptable. We condemn the way the population of this country is acted against.”
The governments of Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Costa Rica have all demanded a halt to the repression in Libya. (Colombia Reports, Feb. 25; Nuevo Diario, Managua; Tico Times, Costa Rica, Feb. 24; La Nación, Buenos Aires, Feb. 23)
See our last post on the Libyan crisis.