Despite almost global condemnation of the violence against demonstrators in Libya, some prominent Latin Americans are standing-by Libya's Muammar al-Qaddafi, even as he declares that he'll keep fighting and will die as a 'martyr.'
Nicaragua's leftist President Daniel Ortega says he has telephoned Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi on Monday to express his solidarity. Cuba's former leader Fidel Castro also weighed in on developments in the middle eastern nation on Tuesday. Castro said that unrest in Libya may be a pretext for a NATO invasion.
Ortega said he had kept in communication with Qaddafi and expressed solidarity due to the "moments of tension" Libya is experiencing. State radio carried excerpts of his remarks on Tuesday.
"There is looting of businesses now, there is destruction. That is terrible," Ortega said during a commemoration Monday of Nicaraguan hero Augusto Cesar Sandino. He said he told Qaddafi that "difficult moments put loyalty to the test." Ortega said he had also ordered Nicaragua's security forces not to repress protesters, though he did not say Qaddafi had done so.
Leftist leaders in the Americas have long embraced Qaddafi and he has responded over the years by awarding the Muammar Qaddafi International Human Rights Prize to Castro and Ortega, as well as to Presidents Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and Evo Morales of Bolivia.
His relations with Chávez are warm enough to spark rumors that he was headed to Venezuela on Monday. As the rumors rounded the world, Qaddafi took to television late Monday to deny them.
Chavez himself has said nothing publicly about the disturbances in Libya, though his Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro issued a statement on Monday saying he had spoken with his Libyan counterpart by telephone to express hopes Libya can find "a peaceful solution to its difficulties ... without the intervention of imperialism, whose interests in the region have been affected in recent times."
Morales also has said nothing.
Fidel Castro, in the meantime, has tried to shift attention to the United States.
"You can agree or not with Qaddafi," Castro said. "The world has been invaded by all sorts of news ... We have to wait the necessary time to know with rigor how much is fact or lie." But he did urge protests of something says is planned: A U.S.-led invasion of the North African nation aimed at controlling its oil.
"The government of the United States is not concerned at all about peace in Libya and it will not hesitate to give NATO the order to invade that rich country, perhaps in a question of hours or very short days," Castro wrote.
Protesters emboldened by the fall of pro-Western strongmen in Egypt and Tunisia have taken to the streets of Libya, where they were confronted by Libya's security forces. Human rights groups say that more than 200 people have died and witnesses said bodies were left in the streets of Libya's capital on Tuesday.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.