Friends till the end: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad in the al-Shaab presidential palace in Damascus in 2010.
Credit: Louai Beshara

A Syrian military retaliation for Wednesday’s Damascus bombing would be possible thanks partly to one of the regime’s few remaining allies: Venezuela.

With a nod from President Hugo Chavez and despite other Western countries' sanctions, South America’s top oil producer still sends fuel to Syria. 

Venezuela has been preparing its fourth major diesel shipment in eight months to Damascus, the Wall Street Journal reported last week.

That’s the fuel, the WSJ adds, that Syrian tanks and other military vehicles have been running on during a crackdown that has killed more than 10,000 Syrians since the uprising against Assad began 18 months ago.

Chavez openly supports Assad, calling the Western sanctions and support for the uprising “aggressions against Syria.”

"It's the same formula they [the West] used against Libya: inject violence, inject terrorism from abroad and later invoke the United Nations to intervene," Chavez said in a speech in January, Reuters reported.

In February, Venezuela’s energy minister, Rafael Ramirez, confirmed to Reuters that the government stood by Venezuela’s continued fuel shipments to Syria.

"We have a high level of cooperation with Syria, a besieged nation, whom the transnational interests want to bring down," Ramirez told Reuters, adding there would be more shipments "whenever required."

Venezuela also continues other trade with the Commercial Bank of Syria and the country's state oil-marketing firm Sytrol, both on US and European Union sanctions lists, according to WSJ.

"We cannot determine our foreign policy with fear of US sanctions," Venezuela's energy minister said, according to CNN. "We have said that those truly don't matter to us."

Perhaps it's little surprise that Venezuela would behave this way. But observers also criticize a softness overall in Latin America's reactions to Syria's crackdown. In a column in June, the Miami Herald's Andres Oppenheimer wrote that, despite most Latin American countries' official condemnation of the acts, the response had been "shockingly tame for a region that has suffered gross human rights violations in the past."

Oppenheimer added:

"And the argument about the alleged US and European hypocrisy is a copout. If Latin American countries are as serious about human rights as some of them claim, they should act against all human rights abusers, including those condoned by the United States and Europe.

Acting against human rights abuses globally should be Latin America’s best line of defense against possible rights abuses in their own countries. But most governments seem to have forgotten the lessons of their own past."

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