Qadhafi Fall Would Deal a Double Blow to a Beleaguered Hugo Chavez

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (L) shakes hands with Libyan leader Moammar Qadhafi in Tripoli on May 17, 2006.

As jubilant Libyans take to the street to celebrate the imminent fall of Muammar Qadhafi, the fate of Libya’s leader remains uncertain: trial or exile?

Press resources speculate that he may be headed to a friendly country. Russia, Zimbabwe, and Venezuela are mentioned. Richard Spencer of The Telegraph reported that “the main possibility of exile outside the Arab world is in Venezuela, whose leader Hugo Chavez is an old friend. Last week a Venezuelan envoy was in the Tunisian resort island of Djerba, talking to Qadhafi representatives.”

Throughout Libya’s civil war, Chavez has steadfastly aligned with the Libyan leader. Never once did he call for new leadership in Libya or even urge Qadhafi to spare the lives of his own people.

On August 1, Chavez remained adamant. “I respect him a lot! He’s resisting there. Long live Libya!” Chavez denounced the National Transition Council as “a group of terrorists.” “Live and be victorious,” urged Chavez. “We’re with you.”

On August 13, Chavez dispatched a letter of support to his “brother” Qadhafi.

The Libyan leader’s fall will deal a double blow to Chavez. It is another setback for the extreme anti-Western, anti-U.S. ideology that has increasingly become the touchstone of Chavez’s Bolivarian Revolution and international alliance structure. Once more, Chavez puts himself on the wrong side of history.

With Syrian ally President Bashar al-Assad—whom Chavez defended as “a humanist” and victim “of a fascist onslaught—under siege and swiftly losing legitimacy, Chavez could soon be bereft of the companionship of another radical Arab soul-mate.

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That would leave revolutionary Iran as Chavez’s firmest and sole remaining ally in the Middle East.

To emphasize the point, the U.S. State Department’s new 2010 Country Reports on Terrorism judged that Venezuela fails to assist in the fight against international terrorism and warned that “President Chavez has continued to strengthen Venezuela’s relationship with state sponsor of terrorism Iran.”

Chavez’s foreign ministry and pro-Chavez media employed highly undiplomatic language in denouncing the Obama Administration and its latest terrorism report, accusing it of playing the role of “planetary judge,” engaging “in massacres of civilians on numerous war fronts,” and opposing any nation “that does not yield to its imperial intentions for world domination.”

A slippage in oil prices is also unwelcome news for Chavez. With his economy on the ropes and elections ahead next year, a decline in revenue for an economy that depends on petroleum exports by his national oil company for 90 percent of its foreign earnings is a grim prospect.

Since the start of the Libyan crisis last March, Chavez has made clear where his support and moral sentiments lie. Celebrations in the streets of Tripoli marking the impending fall of a tyrant are once more a warning sign of what lies ahead for despots: Arab, African, Asian, or Latin American. It is a message whose significance should not be overlooked by the Castros in Cuba or the Chavistas of Venezuela.

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