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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Growing opposition to military intervention in Libya

RIO DE JANEIRO (IPS/GIN) - Latin America is still divided over the military intervention in Libya. But the nations that were initially opposed to it are gradually hardening their stance as the objective of the Western powers taking part in the air strikes authorized by the UN Security Council to protect civilians becomes less and less clear.

Brazil, which abstained from the March 17 UN Security Council vote that authorized “all necessary measures to protect civilians under threat of attack” by pro-Muammar Gadhafi forces in the North African nation, is now calling for a ceasefire.
According to left-wing President Dilma Rousseff, the military intervention is causing what was feared when Brazil abstained in the vote: instead of protecting civilians, the air strikes are causing victims.
“After lamenting the loss of lives as a consequence of the conflict in the country, the Brazilian government expresses hope that an effective ceasefire will be implemented in the shortest possible time, capable of guaranteeing the protection of the civilian population and of creating the conditions for dialogue in the crisis,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

“Brazil reiterates its solidarity with the Libyan people in their search for greater participation in designing the country's political future in an atmosphere of protection of human rights,” adds the March 22 communiqué, attributed by local media to a behind-the-scenes agreement in BRIC, the bloc made up of Brazil, Russia, India and China.
The BRIC countries and Germany abstained from voting for resolution 1973 adopted by the 15-member UN Security Council, which imposed a no-fly zone over Libya for the international mission, but excluded “a foreign occupation force of any form” in that country, which has been ruled by Col. Gadhafi since 1969.
The Brazilian government expressed its stance against the war after U.S. President Barack Obama headed out after his March 19-20 visit to Brazil.
Antonio Alves Pereira, professor of international relations at the Rio de Janeiro Federal University, said the timing of the decision was less about diplomatic deference and more about the intensification of the air strikes.
“When the news of deaths of civilians caused by the bombing came out, Brazil reasserted its position against continued military action,” said Prof. Pereira, adding that Brazil's abstention from the vote was “consistent” with this country's traditional policy of preference for “diplomatic dialogue.”
Mauricio Santoro, an expert on international relations at the Getulio Vargas Foundation, a prestigious Rio de Janeiro-based think tank, added that the initial abstention in the UN as well as the subsequent hardening of its stance were decisions that are “easier” now for Brazil to take because “the other countries of the BRIC also took the same position, which prevented this country from being isolated.”
As Mr. Santoro said in his conversation with IPS, that marks a difference with the past, when Brazil voted against sanctions against Iran, along with Turkey, but “isolated from Russia and China, which did support them.
“Brazil's tradition is to never support a military attack against another country, to never back a coercive intervention, and to always support the route of peace in conflict mediation,” he said.  
Protestors demonstrate against the proposed military intervention in Libya during an anti-war demonstration outside Downing Street in London, Britain, March 18. UK forces were preparing to help enforce a no-fly zone over Libya after the UN backed “all necessary measures”, to protect civilians. Air strikes and bombings of Libyan targets started the next day. Photo: EPA/ANDY RAIN
'This business of saving lives by bombing is an inexplicable contradiction.’
—Uruguayan President José Mujic
In neighboring Argentina, where the government had issued no statement either for or against the military intervention, Argentine Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman wrote on Twitter on March 21 that the air strikes were carried out before “all available diplomatic means were exhausted.”
He also said the report by the U.N. envoy to Libya should have been awaited before any decision on military action was reached.
Khatchik Derghougassian, a professor at the private University of San Andrés, said that both Argentina and Brazil “are injecting a dose of rationality and prudence into an international development that could turn into an unpredictable adventure like the one in Iraq.”
The expert on international relations clarified that the position taken by South America's giants “is not based on defense of a regime that has its own people killed” but is “a questioning of the military alternative when other options have not yet been exhausted.
“It is a moderate stance, different from the one taken by Cuba or Venezuela, which has a more anti-imperialistic flavor,” he said.
The left-wing governments of Uruguay and Paraguay have also expressed positions similar to the ones taken by Brasilia and Buenos Aires.
“This attack implies a setback in the current international order,” said Uruguayan President José Mujica in an interview published by the local daily La República. “The remedy is much worse than the illness. This business of saving lives by bombing is an inexplicable contradiction.”
The countries belonging to the ALBA trade bloc, in line with the position taken by Venezuela's leftist President Hugo Chávez, have roundly condemned the air strikes, which they say are based on U.S. and European interest in Libya's oil, and on the desire to curb the expansion of Arab revolutionary movements.
Venezuela leads ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our Americas), which is also made up of Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Dominica, Nicaragua and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
President Chávez, who prior to the UN Security Council decision tried to get a group of friendly countries to study the situation on the ground and mediate, condemned the operation code-named Odyssey Dawn and called for efforts to seek a diplomatic solution.
But according to the Venezuelan leader, “the Yanqui empire simply reached a decision: Gaddafi has to be overthrown, we must take advantage of the popular uprising.”
He added that the aim was “not only to remove Gaddafi, but to kill him.”
“Venezuela and the countries of ALBA demand a halt to the attack on Libya and against any nation of this world,” he said.
At the other end of the spectrum, in favor of the intervention in Libya, are Colombia, Peru and Chile—the only right-leaning governments in South America—as well as Mexico, whose government issued “a call to Libya's authorities to put an immediate halt to the grave and massive violations of the human rights of the civilian population.”

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