Libya's Gadhafi, increasingly isolated internationally, finds supporters in Latin America

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By IAN JAMES
Associated Press
Tuesday, March 15, 2011; 10:54 AM

CARACAS, Venezuela - As Moammar Gadhafi finds himself increasingly isolated internationally, he still has at least a few friends far away.

Latin America's most prominent leftists rallied early to his defense and have stayed there even as former friends, neighbors and countrymen have abandoned the embattled Libyan leader and urged his ouster.

Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, Cuba's Fidel Castro and Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega have been foremost in opposing U.S. and NATO military involvement, and in suggesting that reports of atrocities by Gadhafi's troops are overblown or unproven.

"What is the United States proposing? A war, an invasion of Libya. They want Libyan oil," Chavez said Sunday. He praised the African Union for appointing a commission of leaders to travel to Libya for talks - an effort in line with his own peace proposals.

Chavez's calls for mediation reflect both his affinity for Gadhafi and his ambition to be a global player, rallying nations against the United States.

But his critics say Chavez has no credibility to promote mediation because he has ignored abuses by Gadhafi's regime. And his stance is also uncomfortable for some of his allies and political supporters, who side with the uprising and say it's time for Gadhafi to go.

Latin America's staunchest leftists long ago embraced Gadhafi as a fellow fighter against global U.S. influence, and they instinctively reject any U.S. intervention almost anywhere.

Both Castro and Chavez have repeatedly suggested the U.S. is stirring up trouble in Libya to grab its oil and say Libyans should settle their own internal conflict.

That stance has put them at odds with some of their friends. The left-leaning governments of Argentina and Brazil have condemned Gadhafi's crackdown on opponents. And even some followers of Castro and Chavez have been recoiling from their positions.

Comments posted on Cuban government websites and some articles on the pro-Chavez website aporrea.org have objected to backing for Libya's eccentric strongman. One article on aporrea.org titled "Neither Gadafi nor imperialism!" argued that Chavez's government should "support the revolutionary masses of Libya" that have risen up to topple the "capitalist dictator."

A group of Venezuelan Marxists led by writer Domingo Alberto Rangel and lawyer Jose Ramon Velasquez issued a statement last week condemning Gadhafi's "brutal repression" of the civilian population.

The government, meanwhile, released a statement backed by more than 260 artists and intellectuals in Venezuela and elsewhere opposing foreign military intervention and supporting Chavez's mediation proposal.


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