Moammar Gadhafi's allies in Latin America should follow Peru's example and suspend diplomatic relations with the North African nation's regime, the representative of a leading Jewish organization said Friday.

Sergio Widder, the Latin American representative of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, strongly criticized the governments of Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela for failing to condemn Gadhafi's violent crackdown on a popular uprising.

"Solidarity with a dictator who has been in power for more than four decades and is massacring his own people is shameful and criminal," Widder said in a statement. "We welcome the decision by Peru's president, Alan Garcia, to break off relations with the Libyan regime."

"It's an offense for the victims of Latin American dictatorships," Widder added.

Peru's government announced this week that it was suspending diplomatic relations with Libya to protest the violence unleashed by Gadhafi.

Peru's government announced in a statement that it would also ask the U.N. Security Council to establish an exclusion zone in Libyan airspace "to prevent the use of that country's warplanes against (its) population."

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega offered support for Gadhafi, saying he had telephoned to express solidarity. Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro said the unrest may be a pretext for an invasion of Libya by members of North Atlantic Treaty Organization — a step that NATO has ruled out.

Ortega on Friday reaffirmed his position, saying he "firmly maintained" his support for Gadhafi, who he said has been the victim of "a ferocious media attack." The former guerrilla leader-turned-president called the situation in Libya "tough and difficult," adding that he hoped for peace.

Venezuela's Hugo Chavez has neither condemned nor defended Gadhafi's crackdown, but his failure to take a stand has prompted strong criticism from his political opponents at home.

The opposition-sided Tal Cual newspaper said in an editorial published on Friday that Chavez brought shame on his fellow citizens by forging close ties to Gadhafi, noting that last year he gave the Libyan leader a replica of the sword that once belonged to 19th-century independence hero Simon Bolivar.

"It's shameful for Venezuela that he has the sword ... of our 'Liberator'," it said.

In a Twitter message Thursday, Chavez said: "Viva Libya and its independence! Gadhafi is facing a civil war."

It was the first time that Chavez has publicly referred to the violence in Libya. He referred to the issue again late Friday, calling himself "a friend of Gadhafi" and warning against "the possibility of civil war" in Libya.

"I cannot say that I'm in favor" of what's happening in Libya, Chavez said. The self-proclaimed revolutionary said he has "maintained silence" regarding the situation in Libya because of muddled media reports.

"We've been prudent," he said.


Associated Press writer Filadelfo Aleman contributed to this report from Managua, Nicaragua.