Bashar al-Assad might be deeply hated by the people of Syria and a pariah in much of the world, but he can count on at least one friend.

According to a report from Middle Eastern news service Zawya, the President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez has expressed his support for the Syrian leader and blasted efforts by western leaders to remove him from power.

Chavez reportedly blamed the violence in Syria on unnamed foreign influences, without providing any supporting evidence.

The Zawya report quoted Chavez as saying terrorists are being infiltrated into Syria and producing violence and death -- and once again, the guilty one is the (Syrian) president, without anyone investigating anything.”

Chavez also attacked what he described western “imperialism” as the real motivation for the movement against Assad.

They're starting to say: 'Let's see if we sanction the government, we're going to freeze their assets, we'll blockade them, throw bombs on them, in order to defend the people,” Chavez said, according to Zawya.

Wow, what cynicism. But that's the empire, it's imperial madness.”

In the past, Chavez has described Assad as a socialist Arab leader, a humanist and a brother, with a great human sensibility, and who is in no way an extremist.

Meanwhile, the Syrian state security has killed almost 400 people since the uprising against Assad commenced more than five weeks ago.

Assad and his cronies have repeatedly blamed the turmoil on foreign infiltrators and unnamed terrorist groups.

This is not nearly the first time Chavez has publicly backed a Mideast despot.

Recently, he defended Moammar Gaddafi and claimed that the western military strikes on Libya were simply a method to seize oil deposits. In March, Chavez had proposed an international mission to find a peaceful resolution in Libya (but that was rejected by Libyan rebel forces).

There were also unsubstantiated rumors at the time that Gaddafi was seeking a safe exile in Venezuela.

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