Hugo Chávez stands by his man, Muammar Qaddafi. But can he bring peace to Libya?

Venezuela's Hugo Chávez has proposed a 'Peace Commission' to mediate Libya's civil conflict. Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa today said the offer is 'under consideration.'

By , Contributor

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    Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi (l.) raises hands with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in Margarita Island, Venezuela, in this Sept. 28, 2009 file photo.
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Unusually quiet at the start of the Libyan crisis, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez is back in form warning of US plots to invade the oil-rich African nation and proposing a “Peace Commission” to mediate the situation.

“We cannot be led forward by the drums of war,” Mr. Chávez said earlier this week. “Because the United States, I am certain, is exaggerating and distorting the issue to justify an invasion.”

Let the world not be quick to break relations with Libya or deploy military forces, he seemed to be saying, months after he himself broke relations with neighboring Colombia and sent troops to their shared border.

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The normally Twitter-happy Chávez was initially silent when the revolt against ally Muammar Qaddafi erupted last month. But on Feb. 25, he broke his silence with a tweet: "Viva Libya and its independence! Qaddafi is facing a civil war!!"

The two leaders have since spoken by telephone, with Colonel Qaddafi reportedly agreeing to consider allowing Chávez to mediate Libya's civil conflict. The United States, it appears, will not be invited to the negotiating table, around which Chávez envisions South American and select European leaders.

How serious is this mediation proposal? Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa today said it is "under consideration."

Qaddafi and Chávez: Good buddies

Qaddafi and Chávez are not only ideologically aligned but also seem to enjoy genuinely warm relations, having visited each other several times and bestowing national honors upon one another.

Demonstrating just how close the two are perceived to be, a rumor that Qaddafi was fleeing to Venezuela – based on pretty much nothing – was quickly accepted within the realm of possibility by world leaders and news outlets.

The opposition here has seized upon the issue, declaring the close ties between Chávez and Qaddafi an international embarrassment.

One opposition member demanded the return of a replica of independence hero Simon Bolivar’s sword, which Chávez bestowed upon Qaddafi during a 2009 visit to Caracas.

Which Arab uprisings do we support?

Meanwhile, government-aligned commentators have twisted themselves into almost amusing ideological contortions, supporting other “popular liberation revolts” in Arab nations but denouncing Libya's popular uprising. Why? It essentially comes down to Israel.

The Tunisian and Egyptian governments had relations with Israel and were therefore imperialist stooges, so those were good revolts. Libya, however, is threatened by “a conjunction of foreign interests of the right, among which figure the governments of the United States, Israel, and Europe," according to a pro-Chávez editorial.

It would be quite a foreign relations coup, indeed, if Chávez, who was once famously told to “shut up” by the Spanish monarch, could forge a compromise in Libya. Few expect it to happen.

A more reasonable proposal might be to let Qaddafi pitch his tent on one of the beautiful islands off of Venezuela’s Caribbean coast.

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