As the United States and its NATO allies mull over a military strike in Syria on the argument that President President Bashar Assad crossed a "red line" by attacking his people with chemical weapons, several left-leaning Latin American leaders have come out against foreign intervention in the bloody civil conflict.
Officials in Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador and Venezuela have all expressed opposition to missile strikes by the U.S., while Argentina and Brazil have tacitly avoided any call for action against Damascus and instead lobbied for a peace settlement to the situation in Syria.
While visiting a Russian warship in Venezuela's La Guaira port on Tuesday, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said that any outside military action taken against Syria over its alleged use of chemical weapons on its own citizens could lead to a "disastrous war,”
The proposal of missile strikes by the U.S. and other NATO powers -- a response to deadly chemical weapons attacks last week by the Syrian government that left hundreds of Syrian civilians dead -- has divided the international community.
The U.S., U.K., France and other European nations are currently contemplating missile strikes and taking the issue to the United Nations to authorize “necessary measures to protect civilians" in Syria. Russia, China and Syria’s Latin American allies have all voiced their opinion that no action should be taken until at least a United Nations mission could determine the culprits in the attack.
“Venezuela and the other (Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas) nations have a knee jerk reaction to anything the U.S. does around the world,” Carl Meacham, the director of the Americas program at the D.C.-based think tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Fox News Latino.
“They are completely ignoring the use of chemical weapons or repression under Assad. They see it as a chance to promote an anti-U.S. agenda around the world," Meacham said.
Both under former leader Hugo Chávez and his chosen heir Maduro, Venezuela has been a staunch opponent of Washington’s influence around the globe and a supporter of many so-called rouge states that operate on the periphery of the international community, such as Syria and Iran.
Cuba as well as Bolivian President Evo Morales and Ecuador’s Rafael Correa have followed suit in their support of Syria.
This response, experts argued, was to be expected from Bolivarian Alliance countries. U.S. intervention anywhere around the world – from drone strikes in the Gulf of Aden to wars in Afghanistan and Iraq – has drawn sharp criticism from Latin American leaders and the proposed missile strikes in Syria appear to be more about supporting their rhetoric than about its support for the Assad regime.
“This has very little to do with Syria,” said Eric Farnsworth, the vice president of Council of the Americas/Americas Society, a think tank in New York City. “Venezuela just stridently opposes everything the U.S. does internationally.”
While criticism from the likes of of Venezuela and Cuba have been predictable, Brazil's hesitance to say anything either way about the missile strikes is the “more troubling” issue, Farnsworth said.
As one of Latin America’s political and economic forces – along with an emerging global power – Brazil has been reserved about making any statements on the Syrian conflicts besides speaking out about the need to find another path than a “military solution to the conflict."
"The Brazilian government expresses its condolences to and solidarity with the families of the victims and endorses the calls made by the UN and the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights about the urgent establishment of an independent investigation process," The Brazilian Foreign Ministry said in a statement following last week’s chemical weapon attack.
Mexico has also remained mostly mum on the matter. Like Brazil, the Mexican foreign ministry issued a statement condemning the killings.
Brazil’s relative silence on any action taken against Syria falls in line with its general stance toward international affairs struck under former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and continued under current President Dilma Rousseff. Under these two leaders, Brazil has tended to stay out of directly intervening in international issues and instead plays the role of negotiator than ideologue.
“Brazil’s approach to Syria is not inconsistent with its position toward intervention in other countries,” Meacham said. “Brazil’s foreign policy is more about managing problems than about going after the issue.”
For some political analysts, the matter has now become quite clear: Syria crossed the line and President Assad needs to be stopped.
“You have to be stupid to not see the very strong case created against Syria,” said Larry Birns, the director of Council of Hemispheric Affairs. “The U.S. couldn’t have been more sober in developing a proper evidentiary base for these charges.”
Last August, U.S. President Barack Obama said that the use of chemical weapons by the Assad was a “red line.”
“We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized,” the president said a year ago last week. “That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.”
The U.S., however, has delayed its response to the attacks in Syria as it waited for more international support and weighed its options as a preventative measure so as not to get bogged down in another military conflict in the Middle East.
The White House said on Wednesday that it is convinced that Syria used chemical weapons, adding that a possible military response could be necessary as it consulted with international partners such as the U.K.
"If there is action taken, it must be clearly defined what the objective is and why" and based on "clear facts," said a senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss internal deliberations publicly, according to The Associated Press.
The official added the administration is considering more than a single set of military strikes and "the options are not limited just to one day" of assault. The strikes would most likely come from the four Arleigh Burke-class destroyers within striking range of Syria in the Mediterranean: The Mahan, the Barry, the Gravely and the Ramage and employ Tomahawk missiles to strike Syrian rocket and artillery sites.
While some U.S. lawmakers called the strike largely symbolic, leaving Assad’s main military forces unharmed and using the Tomahawk that has limited tactical effect, some retired U.S. military members believe the attacks would strike a blow – at least psychologically – to the Assad regime.
“Our Tomahawk missiles are always going to be effective,” Carmello Figueroa, a retired Sergeant First Class in the U.S. Army, told Fox News Latino. “Our tax dollars paying for something so they better hit the targets.”
For the U.S., its allies as well as its opponents in Latin America, the bigger question is what happens after the strikes occur and how will Assad respond to them.
“The problem isn’t the air strikes,” Birns said. “It’s a problem of the morning after.”
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