Assad seeking political asylum in Latin America if forced to flee Syria

Haaretz reports: Syrian President Bashar Assad has been looking into the possibility of claiming political asylum for himself, his family and his associates in Latin America, in case he is forced to flee Damascus.

Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Miqdad held meetings in Cuba, Venezuela and Ecuador over the past week, and brought with him classified personal letters from Assad to local leaders.

A source in the Venezuelan capital Caracas who spoke to Haaretz was not able to say what the response to the Syrian request was, but Venezuela’s foreign ministry confirmed to the El Universal newspaper that al-Miqdad did indeed bring a letter for President Hugo Chavez. Chavez received the letter just before he set out to Cuba last Wednesday to undergo further treatment for cancer.

All that the official spokesperson in Caracas could confirm was that Assad’s message touched on “the personal relationship between the two presidents,” and that the deputy foreign minister’s visit defines the close relationship between the two states.

Since the crisis in Syria began in March last year, Chavez has not hidden his support for the Assad regime. A number of times over the past year Venezuela has sent petrol and diesel fuel to Syria, so that the regime’s tanks and armored personnel carriers can continue to operate against what Chavez defines as terrorists. The Venezuelan leader’s close relationship with Iran, and his personal friendship with Iranian President Ahmadinejad, have turned him into a major player in efforts to save Assad.

Although the Syrian Ambassador in Venezuela, Ghassan Abbas, confirmed on Tuesday that al-Miqdad did hold talks with senior officials in Caracas, he claimed that he knows nothing about the content of Assad’s letter to Chavez. The deputy foreign minister had similar meetings last week in the Cuban capital, Havana, and the Ecuadorian capital, Quito.

A report in the New York Times on Monday said: A Russian political analyst with contacts at the [Syrian] Foreign Ministry said that “people sent by the Russian leadership” who had contact with Mr. Assad two weeks ago described a man who has lost all hope of victory or escape.

“His mood is that he will be killed anyway,” Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of a Russian foreign affairs journal and the head of an influential policy group, said in an interview in Moscow, adding that only an “extremely bold” diplomatic proposal could possibly convince Mr. Assad that he could leave power and survive.

“If he will try to go, to leave, to exit, he will be killed by his own people,” Mr. Lukyanov said, speculating that security forces dominated by Mr. Assad’s minority Alawite sect would not let him depart and leave them to face revenge. “If he stays, he will be killed by his opponents. He is in a trap. It is not about Russia or anybody else. It is about his physical survival.”

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