Much of the world is demanding greater pressure on Syria following a United Nations inspectors’ report hinting that Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons in his country’s civil war, but — amazingly — Venezuela and some of its Latin American allies are still passionately defending Syria’s dictator.
Earlier this week, after U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon presented the U.N. inspectors’ report concluding that there is “clear and convincing” evidence that chemical weapons were used in an Aug. 21 incident on the outskirts of Damascus, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro lashed out against the U.N. chief for allegedly siding with the enemies of the Syrian people.
“Why is the U.N. secretary general lending himself (to plans to attack Syria,) as if he were a prosecutor and judge of the world’s people, putting himself at the service of the strategy of war, instead of being at the service of peace?” Maduro asked in a speech Monday in the state of Miranda.
In a speech last month more than a week after the Aug. 21 attack with chemical weapons, Maduro said, “Venezuela is with Syria, and with President Bashar al-Assad, and with the Syrian people.”
A day later, on Aug. 31, Maduro issued an official statement stating that Venezuela stands by “the Syrian people” in their fight against “unjustified war-mongering aggressions.”
Venezuela’s government-run media, meantime, has turned Assad into a hero and is blaming the United States and Israel for allegedly trying to invade Syria.
A cartoon in Venezuela’s state-run daily Correo del Orinoco this week shows a plane dropping hearts over Syria with the legend “to the Syrian people from the people of ALBA.” ALBA, which stands for the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our Americas, is an organization formed by Venezuela that is it made up of nine Latin American and Caribbean countries.
Venezuela’s daily Vea, which like other government-backed newspapers often publishes anti-Semitic cartoons, ran a cartoon on May 9 showing a black-robed skeleton representing death, with a star of David and this legend: “Since we got tired of killing Palestinians, we are now going to finish with the Syrians.”
What’s most amazing about the pro-Assad statements in Venezuela’s official media is that they are still appearing after the U.N. inspectors’ report — which clearly suggests, without saying so explicitly, that Assad’s forces were responsible for the Aug. 21 chemical gas attack.
While it doesn’t officially take sides, because that wasn’t within the inspectors’ scope, the U.N. report shows that the rockets that carried Sarin gas are weapons that are not in the hands of Syria’s rebels, and that they were launched from several government-controlled points.
Although less strenuously, Venezuelan allies such as Cuba and Bolivia also have come out in support of Assad even after the U.N. findings. Most other Latin American countries have supported the Geneva agreement between the United States and Russia to demand that Syria destroy its chemical weapons.
But U.S. officials say major Latin American countries such as Mexico and Brazil have been late in joining the international community’s demands that Syria comply with the Geneva agreement.