|Al Jazeera's Gabriel Elizondo reports from Sao Paulo on region's divided reaction to Gaddafi's crackdown on protests
Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president, has praised Libya's "independence", saying the north African country's longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi is facing a civil war in his country.
"Long live Libya and its independence! Kadhafi faces a civil war!" Chavez said in a Twitter messageon Friday, his first reaction to the unrest shaking Libya since February 15.
Chavez is Gaddafi's main ally in Latin America. Both leaders regularly make public condemnations of US "imperialism" and have exchanged visits in recent years.
Ties are so close that Gaddafi was rumoured on Monday to have fled to Caracas, claims later denied.
Chavez, who visited Libya in October, was in contact with Gaddafi during the popular uprising that led to the resignation of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak on February 11 after three decades in power, Venezuelan officials said.
"[We demand] the immediate severing of diplomatic ties [with Gaddafi's] genocidal dictatorship"
Statement from Nicaragua's Liberal Party
Separately, Nicolas Maduro, the Venezuelan foreign minister, told the National Assembly that Venezuela "repudiates the violence" in Libya, but said the conflict merits "objective" study.
"Conditions are being created to justify an invasion of Libya, and the central objective of that invasion ... is to take away Libya's oil," Maduro said.
Western governments have demanded punishment for abuses in Libya - but "why don't they ask for the same punishment for those who bomb innocent civilians every day in Iraq or Afghanistan?" he asked. "They are just as murderous."
In Latin America, only Daniel Ortega, the leftist Nicaraguan president, has also openly expressed solidarity with Gaddafi.
But Nicaragua's main opposition group, the Liberal Party, issued a statement earlier demanding "the immediate severing of diplomatic ties" with Gaddafi's "genocidal dictatorship".
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Source: Al Jazeera and agencies