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Chavez stands behind Syrian leader

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says Syria is the victim of a "fascist onslaught"
  • Chavez says he spoke to Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad on Friday
  • "God help Syria," Chavez says via Twitter

(CNN) -- Syria, facing U.S. sanctions for violent crackdowns on protesters, is "the victim of a fascist onslaught," Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Friday via Twitter.

Chavez, a leftist president who has aligned himself with countries hostile to the United States, said that he spoke on Friday with Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, whom he called a "brother."

"God help Syria," Chavez tweeted.

On Friday, anti-government demonstrations broke out in Syria after weekly Muslim prayers, with activists reporting at least 31 deaths amid clashes between security forces and protesters.

The United States has imposed sanctions on al-Assad and other senior officials. On Thursday, President Barack Obama singled out Syria for criticism during his speech on the Middle East.