This story just seems to get more and more bizarre. The latest is that Gaddafi is driving around the desert in a convertible minivan with a TV crew and a parasol. The Telegraph is liveblogging developments.
According to intelligence sources as reported in Britain's Telegraph, flamboyant Libyan strongman Colonel Moamar Gaddafi has fled the country and is on his way to Venezuela and exile.
With widespread rioting and intense negative reaction to violent government reprisals the situation in Libya had begun to escalate to a level where no amount of government repression would be likely to keep the country under control. Government attacks on protesters had resulted in hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries when mortars and machine guns were fired on rioting crowds.
When insurgents captured Benghazi, the nation's second largest city, it was a clear sign that Gaddafi's regime would not be able to survive without an escalation which would draw so much negative international attention that it would provoke intervention. Cabinet ministers have been resigning, army pilots have flown their fighters to safe havens outside of the country, and the nation's UN delegation has declared Gaddafi's reign to be over. Libya is following the lead of Egypt and literally falling apart.
It is not surprising that the aging dictator found a quick exit to be the wisest course. At this hour his plane has likely already landed in Caracas and he has money waiting in offshore bank accounts to support a lavish lifestyle in a country which Hugo Chavez has turned into a haven for fallen heads of repressive states.
What remains to be seen now is whether the people of Libya can establish a free and functional government after so many years under dictatorial rule and whether Muslim fundamentalists will gain a footing there. Meanwhile, we are all watching to see which country in the region will be the next to experience the violent unrest which has already toppled two repressive governments and threatens many more. Will this be another step in the spread of liberty or another opportunity for a new generation of tyrants?