Latin America,  North Africa

Hugo Chavez tweets it in

As Colonel Gaddafi’s loyalists continue to cut down protesters, and the colonel himself commands Libyans to sing and dance and rejoice, Venezuela’s caudillo Hugo Chavez has finally broken his silence about events in the country ruled by his friend and comrade.

“Long live Libya and its independence! Kadhafi faces a civil war!” Chavez said in a Twitter message on Friday, his first reaction to the unrest shaking Libya since February 15.

Chavez is Gaddafi’s main ally in Latin America. Both leaders regularly make public condemnations of US “imperialism” and have exchanged visits in recent years.

Ties are so close that Gaddafi was rumoured on Monday to have fled to Caracas, claims later denied.

Chavez, who visited Libya in October, was in contact with Gaddafi during the popular uprising that led to the resignation of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak on February 11 after three decades in power, Venezuelan officials said.

Separately, Nicolas Maduro, the Venezuelan foreign minister, told the National Assembly that Venezuela “repudiates the violence” in Libya, but said the conflict merits “objective” study.

“Conditions are being created to justify an invasion of Libya, and the central objective of that invasion … is to take away Libya’s oil,” Maduro said.

Western governments have demanded punishment for abuses in Libya – but “why don’t they ask for the same punishment for those who bomb innocent civilians every day in Iraq or Afghanistan?” he asked. “They are just as murderous.”

Maduro said Gaddafi “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.”

Which is to say: don’t expect Chavez to demand Gaddafi return the replica of Simon Bolivar’s sword anytime soon.

Daniel Duquenal has more, including this clip from the Venezuelan government-financed TeleSur in which an interview with Venezuela’s ambassador in Libya (saying “everything is quiet here”) shares the screen with video of pro-Gaddafi demonstrators.