By IAN JAMES, Associated Press
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez condemned military strikes against Libya on Saturday, accusing the United States and its European allies of attacking the country to seize its oil.
Chavez's ally and mentor Fidel Castro raised similar concerns in a column written before the first strikes, while the leftist leaders of Bolivia and Nicaragua also accused world powers of intervening with an eye to the North African country's oil.
Chavez, who has long-standing ties to Moammar Gadhafi, has urged mediation and called it "disgusting" that the U.S., France and other countries are taking military action.
"More death, more war. They are the masters of war," Chavez said. "What irresponsibility. And behind that is the hand of the United States and its European allies."
"They want to seize Libya's oil. The lives of Libya's people don't matter to them at all," Chavez said. "It is deplorable that once again the warmongering policy of the Yankee empire and its allies is being imposed, and it is deplorable that the United Nations lends itself to supporting war, infringing on its fundamental principles instead of urgently forming a commission to go to Libya."
Operating under authorization of the U.N. Security Council, French fighter jets fired the first shots at Gadhafi's troops Saturday, and U.S. and British warships launched a missile attack on Libya's air defenses.
"We know what's going to happen: bombs, bombs, war, more suffering for the people, more death," Chavez said in a televised speech in Caracas.
The socialist leader has been joined by Latin American allies including Castro and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega in strongly opposing U.S. and NATO military involvement in Libya, and in suggesting that reports of atrocities by Gadhafi's troops were overblown or unproven.
In a column published in Cuba's state media Saturday, Castro asked why the U.N. Security Council exists, and said NATO wields such a colossal military force that it "serves only to show the waste and chaos generated by capitalism."
Speaking in Bolivia, President Evo Morales condemned the military intervention and said the strategy of some powerful countries has been to "invent a problem, and the problem is wanting to take control of oil."
Ortega, meanwhile, echoed allegations that Western nations are after Libya's oil and said they are "putting out fire with gasoline."
The Nicaraguan leader accused the United Nations and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of being "an instrument of those powers."
Chavez criticized President Barack Obama, saying he won the Nobel Peace Prize but is pursuing another war in the same mold as Iraq and Afghanistan. He also mocked French and other European leaders, saying "they still feel like owners of the world, empires of this world."
Chavez said the freezing of Libyan accounts in U.S. and European banks — an amount he said he believes is nearly $200 billion — is effectively "a robbery, it's looting, taking advantage of Libya's internal conflict."
The military strikes against Libya came after the U.N. Security Council authorized a no-fly zone and are aimed at supporting an uprising by rebels trying to topple Gadhafi after more than four decades in power.
"What is that called? Intervention in another country's internal affairs," Chavez said. "We demand ... a true cease-fire."