Political Risk Latin America Blog @PolRiskLatam

Gaddafi’s Friends in Latin America

Posted in News and Articles, Political Risk by politicalrisklatam on March 4, 2011

by Jorge Castañeda for Time, March 4th, 2011.

The number of people who have died on the streets of Libya remains a mystery, as is the degree of Muammar Gaddafi’s direct responsibility for their deaths. No one knows how long Gaddafi will last or how much blood will have to be spilled before he departs or, perversely, saves his skin.

But we know what occurred in Tunisia and Egypt. In Tunis, the army did not open fire, Zine el Abidine Ben Ali finally fled, and the total number of casualties in a country with roughly the same population as Libya barely topped 200. In Cairo, the army fraternized with demonstrators for 18 days practically without firing a shot. In the skirmishes and bouts of aggression with regime thugs, some 350 Egyptian citizens died, in a country with 12 times Libya’s population. Hosni Mubarak finally fled, without a bloodbath anywhere near that of Libya’s unending tragedy.(See the Latest Scenes from the Unrest in Libya.)

So paradoxically, Mubarak, the U.S.’s unconditional ally for decades, and Ben Ali, the Tunisian friend of France, both departed because of pressure from the street and vigorous condemnation from the international community. What many in the world have called imperialism for the past century has wreaked all sorts of havoc, but this time around, it didn’t cozy up to the dictators; indeed, it rather welcomed the fall of the strongmen. Even nations such as China and Russia that have not shown great enthusiasm for the universal defense of human rights have taken a strong stance against violence.

But not everybody has. Daniel Ortega, the Sandinista President of Nicaragua and a friend of Gaddafi’s since the early ’80s, declared, “I have been in touch by phone with Gaddafi … logically he is waging once again a great battle. How many battles has Gaddafi had to wage! … I offered him the solidarity of the Nicaraguan people, of the Nicaraguan Sandinistas.” Fidel Castro was more careful, accepting that one could agree or disagree with Gaddafi, asking, “How much truth or lies, or combination of both, has actually occurred in Libya?” But he was unflinching: “The United States does not care at all about peace in Libya and will not hesitate to order NATO to invade that rich country … Any honest person will always be against injustice anywhere in the world, and the worst injustice, at this moment, would be to remain silent about the crime which NATO is about to commit against the Libyan people.” In other words, for Castro, the problem is not the dead and dying on the streets of Libya but the supposedly imminent American invasion of the country. Castro would never think of condemning the repression, the executions, the beatings and the detentions in Libya, only “imperialism.”(TIME’s Complete Coverage: The Middle East in Revolt.) (continue reading… )

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