Of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's dwindling list of friends, the most distant (and bizarre) is Venezuela's bombastic strongman Hugo Chávez. Attracted by Assad's anti-American rhetoric, Chávez has courted a bilateral relationship with the Assad regime even as it bludgeons its own people.
Since protests began in Syria one year ago, Venezuela has sent two massive shipments of diesel – totalling 600,000 barrels – to the Assad government. A third is on the way. The refined fuel has become increasingly vital for Damascus and Assad's busy armed forces, as the regime struggles in the grip of sanctions by the US and Europe.
But up to one million Venezuelans are of Syrian descent, and many are disgusted that Chávez is supporting violence against their friends and family members. Syrians in Venezuela have taken to the streets to protest against the government's stand – in effect challenging two repressive regimes at once.
Al-Jazeera reports on this brave solidarity movement springing up in Latin America:
Further reading:The companies keeping Assad's regime warm.