Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua have been openly supporting the Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. When the three countries celebrated the fall of Egyptian former president, Hosni Mubarak, because of his "alliance" with the US, the fall of the Tunisian dictator Ben Ali was not even mentioned. With Libya ,however, the three socialist countries decided to express their unequivocal support for Gaddafi.

While other governments in Latin America, such as Brazil, Peru and Chile, clearly condemned the unspeakable repression of Libyan demonstrators, the Cuban leader Fidel Castro accused the United States and NATO of instigating the uprisings in Libya in order to invade the country and seize its oil wealth. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez showed his concern for the crisis in the "brother country," whereas President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua said he has phoned Libyan Gaddafi to express his solidarity.

Libya's relations with Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua

There was, a few days ago, a rumor that Colonel Gaddafi might have fled to Venezuela. Although the rumor was false, it is true that Chavez entertains very good and brotherly relations with Gaddafi. Two years ago, Chavez awarded the Libyan dictator the Orden del Libertador Simón Bolívar, the highest distinction of Venezuela, normally reserved to people who offered outstanding services to the country. More recently, Chavez visited Tripoli and on that occasion, stressed that Libya and Venezuela will emerge as steel tigers to face the empire: the U.S. The two dictators even planned to create a $1 billion joint fund.

Fidel Castro, for his part, has always been close to Gaddafi with whom he shares a few characteristics such as a revolutionary past, a common enemy -– again, the United States -– and the not very enviable record of having spent almost half a century in ruling their respective countries. In support of Gaddafi, therefore, Castro in his column, Reflexiones de Fidel (Fidel's Reflections), wrote that NATO is planning to take over Libya and its oil. "The world has been invaded with all kinds of news," Castro wrote, "especially through the mass media. We shall have to wait the time needed to discover precisely how much is truth or lies, or a mix of events of all kinds, which, in the midst of chaos, have been taking place in Libya. What is absolutely evident to me is that the government of the United States is totally unconcerned about peace in Libya and will not hesitate to give NATO the order to invade that rich country, possibly in a matter of hours or a few days."

President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua was also adamant in his support for the Libyan dictator. In remarks made on state radio, he said that he had kept in communication with the Libyan leader, expressing his solidarity over the "moments of tension". According to Ortega, Gaddafi "is waging a great battle and is even open to having a dialogue, while at the same time defending the integrity of the nation." The excellence of the relations between the two countries was shown also by Libya having cancelled a USD$200 million debt owed by Nicaragua.

Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua Feel the Heat

Although there are no clear signs that the upheaval in the Middle East will have immediate repercussions in Latin America, some of its leaders are nevertheless growingly worried about this possibility. In Venezuela, the government gave in to the demand for dialogue and debate on human rights after a 23-day hunger strike by Venezuelan students demanding the release of political prisoners – although the government continues to deny that there are political prisoners in Venezuela. The government's mediator, however, Interior Minister Tarek El Aissami, agreed to negotiate demands with respect to several imprisoned Chavez opponents and to study the conditions in some prisons. Just few days earlier, Aissami attacked the U.S. State Department when it suggested that the Organization of American States be allowed to visit the students on a hunger strike. The Miami Herald reported that "the minister accused the U.S. government of trying to foment a 'virtual Egypt,' which suggests that Venezuela sees parallels with the explosive situation in the Middle East. There is ample reason for that".

In Cuba, the government fears the emergence of an opposition movement on social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter. In a 52-minute video leaked last week in Vimeo, a Cuban counter-intelligence staffer, identified as Eduardo Fontes Suárez, a cyber security official at Cuba's Ministry of the Interior (MININT), warned government officials that pro-Democracy organizers in Cuba and the United States were using social networks to foment an uprising. In the meantime, Cuba lifted the censorship on Yoani Sanchez's opposition blog Generation Y. According to the world-known blogger Sanchez, the reason for Cuba's having taken the filters off her website was so La Havana to could give an image to the international community "of tolerance, of supposed openings on the issue of free expression" Further, Castro's regime has recently released few political dissidents.

In Nicaragua, violent demonstrations were sparked in the capital Managua against the possible candidacy of Ortega in next elections, as, according to the Constitution, a president cannot serve more than two terms. Ortega served the first time from 1985 to 1990 and again became president in 2007. The president accused opposition parties and "foreign agencies" of trying to create chaos in the country. "We have a democracy here, and everybody can protest," he claimed.

It is Ortega himself, however, who is putting democracy in Nicaragua at risk.

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