Each of you has several things in common.
For starters, you are the leaders of your respective countries -- Venezuela, Turkey, Bolivia, and Nicaragua.
Moreover, each of you, in many speeches, has talked about the centrality of justice.
President Chavez, you've spoken of your quest "to bring about a state that is social, democratic, and just."
Prime Minister Erdogan, you have said that "peace, justice, brotherhood, and solidarity were in the best interests of every country."
President Morales, you stress that you seek "equality and justice."
President Ortega, you describe yourself as a fighter "for a just and free world."
Third, each of you has been a recipient of the Muammar Al-Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights.
According to the website, the prize was established in 1988 to honor those who have "achieved great actions in defending human rights, protecting the cause of freedom, and supporting peace everywhere in the world."
President Chavez, you were in Tripoli in 2004 to receive the prize. Subsequently, you hosted Gaddafi in Caracas, comparing him to Simon Bolivar and conferring on him your country's highest civilian decoration. At the time, you declared: "We share the same destiny, the same battle in the same trench against a common enemy, and we will conquer."
Prime Minister Erdogan, you were in Tripoli last year for the award ceremony, at which time you said: "You can be sure that this award will encourage our struggle for human rights in a regional and global sense."
President Morales, you proudly traveled to Tripoli in 2000 to get the prize.
And President Ortega, it was your turn in 2009, and you did not hesitate to accept it.
Finally, notwithstanding your stated commitment to justice, your postures in recent days, as Gaddafi unleashed the state's deadly power against those protesting his 41-year authoritarian reign, could not be more striking.
Surely, the right thing to do at this moment, first and foremost, is to renounce the Gaddafi prize, not to mention the cash award that accompanied it. Why not donate the funds, not back into the coffers of Gaddafi, but to relief efforts on behalf of the victims of his brutality?
Why would anyone claiming to battle for justice wish to be associated with a mass murderer? How cruel a joke in the first place to associate Gaddafi with human rights and possess an award that links the two?
Yet, not only have you not relinquished the prize, but it gets still worse.
President Chavez, you and your foreign minister proclaimed on February 25th, with hundreds, if not more, slaughtered, leaving rivers of blood flowing through the streets of Libyan cities, "Viva Libya and viva Gaddafi."
Prime Minister Erdogan, where is your outrage and fury at what is taking place before the world's eyes? Is it only when Israel is deemed to be involved that you show a capacity for unbridled anger?
President Morales, the silence from La Paz is deafening. Why? Where is your voice in support of the "justice" you proclaim as your guiding light?
And President Ortega, no doubt Gaddafi valued your phone call this week to express your solidarity, emphasizing, in your own words, that "it's at difficult times that loyalty and resolve are put to the test."
Actually, it's at such times that leaders reveal themselves. And the four of you have revealed yourselves for all to see.
You accepted a ludicrously named prize from a murderous scoundrel. In doing so, you conferred undeserved legitimacy on Gaddafi's rule. After all, it most assuredly didn't take until 2011 to understand the true nature of Gaddafi and the ruthless nature of his regime.
When you had the chance this month to show the world that you learned your lesson, however belatedly, by returning the award, you did not, even as the reports from the ground compellingly described a bloodbath for which Gaddafi and his henchmen are responsible. Does the award really mean that much to you as a source of validation, gratification, and inspiration?
And given the chance to condemn resoundingly the denial of justice, the repression of human rights, and the negation of brotherhood in Gaddafi's Libya, you couldn't bring yourselves to do so. So much for the high-minded values you preach.
How tragic! And yes, how telling!
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