Ahmadinejad will visit Brazil on May 6 - for the first time - and will be welcomed by president Lula da Silva. Most people think the Brazilian president Lula is a moderate and not a clown like Chávez and Morales - but in reality they share the same basic leftist beliefs, as do most Latin American "leaders". Lula Da Silva blames whitey:
Brazil's president blamed "white people with blue eyes" for the world economic crisis and said it was wrong that developing countries should pay for mistakes made in richer countries, sparking accusations of racism.
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who has criticized the European Union and the US for tariffs on products from developing countries and has advocated a bigger say for developing countries in decisions on the world economy, pointed a finger to Western bankers.
"This crisis was caused by the irrational behavior of white people with blue eyes, who thought they knew everything and now show they know nothing," Lula da Silva said after a meeting with the UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown in the country's capital of Brasilia.
In case you were wondering why the Chavez wannabee Evo Morales recently went on a pogrom against the Jews, as reported here, it was probably in honor of the arrival of the fuhrer of the Fourth Reich, Ahmadinejad.
Several times this week, Bolivian police forcibly closed a Chabad House. A Foreign Ministry official said Thursday that there were no Israeli citizens caught up in the raids. Several Israelis were arrested.
There is an article about the dangers in Portuguese here. (hat tip Ingo)
Iran’s Goals in Latin America
What is Ahmadinejad Looking for in Latin America?
First, he is seeking Latin American support to counter US and European pressures to stop Iran from developing nuclear capabilities. Venezuela and Cuba were, alongside Syria, the only three countries that supported Iran’s nuclear programme in a February 2006 vote at the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency.
Secondly, Ahmadinejad wants to strike back at the US in its own hemisphere and possibly destabilise US-friendly governments in order to negotiate with Washington from a position of greater strength.
Third, Ahmadinejad's popularity at home is falling, and he may want to show his people that he is being welcomed as a hero abroad.
Since Ahmadinejad’s ascendancy to power, he has made three diplomatic tours to Latin America in search of an alliance of ‘revolutionary countries’. He visited Venezuela in July 2006, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Ecuador in January 2007, and Venezuela and Bolivia in September 2007. Ahmadinejad had also hosted President Chávez of Venezuela, President Ortega of Nicaragua, President Morales of Bolivia and President Correa of Ecuador and is expecting the visit of Brazil’s President Lula da Silva in 2009.
The cornerstone of Ahmadinejad’s Latin America policy is the formation of an anti-American axis with Venezuela. During a July 2006 visit to Tehran, Chávez told a Tehran University crowd, ‘We have to save humankind and put an end to the US empire’. When Chávez again visited Tehran a year later Ahmadinejad and Chávez used the visit to declare an ‘Axis of Unity’ against the US. Ahmadinejad’s efforts to further destabilise the neighbourhood suggest that he is seeking a permanent Iranian presence on the US doorstep.
Both leaders are using their mutual embrace to overcome international isolation and sanctions. Both Tehran and Caracas have used their petrodollar windfall to encourage states in Latin America to embark on confrontational policies towards the US.
Using billions of Iranian dollars in aid and assistance, and a US$2 billion Iran/Venezuela programme to fund social projects in Latin America, Ahmadinejad has worked to create an anti-American bloc with Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua.
Iran’s Growing Presence in Latin America
During the International Conference on Latin America held in Tehran in February 2007, Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mehdi Mostafavi, announced the opening of embassies in Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Uruguay and a representative office in Bolivia, and that a number of Latin American countries would open embassies in Iran.
Iran’s political and economic penetration of the continent in a short period of two-three years is indeed impressive.
According to Elodie Brun, both Venezuela and Iran are using oil as a political instrument to insert themselves internationally in a way that both characterise as revolutionary. The Venezuelan President, Hugo Chávez, and President Ahmadinejad embrace a rhetoric emphasising autonomy and independence from the great powers, primarily the US but also Europe, citing unity in the struggle against imperialism and capitalism. Hostility to the US, and particularly to the Bush Administration, is what most binds the foreign policies of the two countries.
‘Here are two brother countries, united like a single fist’, Hugo Chávez, the Venezuelan leader, was quoted as saying in Tehran. ‘Iran is an example of struggle, resistance, dignity, revolution, strong faith’, Chávez told al-Jazeera. ‘We are two powerful countries. Iran is a power and Venezuela is becoming one. We want to create a bipolar world. We don’t want a single power [that is, the US]...Despite the will of the world arrogance [of the US], we [Iran and Venezuela] will stand by the oppressed and deprived nations of the world’, Ahmadinejad said. Thérèse Delpech, a French analyst, has noted that Ahmadinejad's ‘flamboyant style’ is similar to that of his Venezuelan colleague.
Some observers consider that Latin America’s willingness to embrace Iran indicates how far US prestige has fallen in the region. Chávez has emerged as ‘the godfather and relationship manager’, striving to draw in this embrace other allies such as Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua. He is providing Iran with an entry into Latin America, vowing to ‘unite the Persian Gulf and the Caribbean’ and recently gave Iran observer status in his leftist trade-pact group known as the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas.
Iran has become the second-largest investor in Venezuela, after the US. The first ‘anti-imperialist cars’ from a joint venture (Venirauto) have now reached Venezuela’s roads, with the first batch earmarked for army officers. The 4,000 tractors produced annually in Ciudad Bolivar have a symbolic value as agents of revolutionary change. Most are given or leased at a discount in Venezuela to socialist cooperatives that have land, with the government’s blessing. Universities are teaching Farsi.
Iran is to help build platforms in a US$4 billion development of Orinoco delta oil deposits in exchange for Venezuelan investments. An Iranian company is building thousands of apartments for Venezuela’s poor. The most visible impact so far has been the arrival of Iranian businesses. The public housing project alone has brought more than 400 Iranian engineers and specialists to Venezuela, where many have learned basic Spanish.
Iran starves its own people to finance the jihad in Latin America.
Venezuela could also provide Iran with some breathing space as it tries to weather the financial pressure of UN and US sanctions on its nuclear programme. Venezuela could end up being an outlet for Iran to move money, obtain high-tech equipment and access the world financial system.
Venezuela has already become Iran’s gateway for travel to the region. There is now a weekly flight between Caracas and Tehran, with a stopover in Damascus, operated by the Venezuelan state-controlled airline Conviasa and Iran’s national carrier, Iran Air. Flights are packed with government officials and government-friendly business people. Venezuela’s state airline bought an Airbus jet especially for the route.
Bolivia might be a poor country, but it is strategically located and represents an important ally for Iran that can act as a catalyst in enhancing Iran’s growing cooperation with other leftist or populist governments in Latin America.
On 27 September 2007 Ahmadinejad visited La Paz for the first time to meet President Morales. They took the opportunity to sign a programme of cooperation worth US$1.1 billion in Bolivia’s underdeveloped oil and gas sector.
In August 2008 the government of Bolivia, with the support of Iran and Venezuela, created the Public National Strategic Company ‘Cement of Bolivia’ with an investment of US$230 million for the establishment of two plants in Potosí and Oruro departments. In the same month, the Vice-president of Iran, Mojtama Samare Hashemi, came to the country to express his support for Evo Morales and to promote economic agreements.
Iran decided to open two health clinics in Bolivia, as a base for future Red Crescent projects in South America. The agreement includes sending Iranian medical teams to Bolivia, and offering specialised education and training for Bolivian physicians. The Bolivian Health Minister said that the Iranian clinics would expand the medical aid already being provided by Cuba and Venezuela.
The Iranian state television agreed to provide Bolivian state television with Spanish-language programming, making it that much easier for every Bolivian to receive Iranian-produced news and documentary shows –ie, propaganda.
In September 2008 Morales went to Teheran and agreed with Ahmadinejad to accelerate the execution of joint projects to increase economic development and welfare for both nations. The two Presidents issued a statement to the effect that the interference of the United Nations Security Council in Iran’s nuclear programme had no legal or technical justification. Morales’ decision to set aside any hesitation and fully support Iran's position in the current nuclear stand-off has gone a long way to cementing Iranian-Bolivian friendship. According to the statement, the two sides have also pledged to continue their political struggle against imperialism. ‘Nothing and no country can harm our relations with the revolutionary country of Iran’, Morales told reporters.
Following his return from Iran, President Evo Morales announced he was moving the country’s sole Middle Eastern Embassy from Egypt to Iran, a clear sign of what his strategic priorities in the Middle East are.
According to Maradiaga and Meléndez, Nicaragua’s foreign policy strongly correlates with Venezuela’s, and any Latin American relationship with Iran is conducted through Caracas. President Ortega sees himself as a ‘revolutionary’ who supports Chávez’s political-ideological anti-imperialist ‘Socialism of the 21st century’. Francisco Aguirre Sacasa, a former Nicaraguan Foreign Minister, described Ortega’s relations with Iran as a ‘policy of the heart’.'
And Hussein Obama sat through a 50-minute tirade of vilification of the US at last week's Summit of America.
Iran promised Nicaragua US$1 billion in aid and investment to develop its energy and agricultural sectors, infrastructure and water purification facilities. The largest project was the construction of a deep water port on Nicaragua’s eastern shore, requiring an investment of US$350 million. Nicaragua received a US$231 million loan from Iran in 2007 to build a hydroelectric dam. In August 2008, Nicaraguan-Iranian relations were further consolidated when President Ahmadinejad donated US$2 million for the construction of a hospital. Iran will also expand media cooperation with Nicaragua. Iran has stationed about 20 Iranian officials at its Embassy there, which has by now become one of the largest in the country.
However, Maradiaga and Meléndez claimed as late as mid-2008 that the proposed projects created the appearance of strong economic ties between the two nations but that there was little evidence that the aid and investment would materialise. They doubted that the relationship –held together by the anti-Americanism espoused by the leaders of both countries– would deepen beyond the ideological and political level. On the political level, Nicaragua is actually playing down US concerns about Iran’s nuclear-weapon ambitions and President Ortega publicly supported Iran’s right to ‘nuclear energy for peaceful ends’.
During President Mohammad Khatami’s February 2004 visit to Caracas to attend the summit of the non-aligned G-15 he met the newly elected President Lula da Silva of Brazil and talked about bilateral trade. Since then, Brazil’s exports to Iran have doubled and it has been the latter’s largest Latin American trade partner for several years, with a volume of exports to Iran as large as those of neighbouring Turkey and India.
However, when in September 2007 Ahmadinejad expressed his intention of going to Brasilia on an official visit –after speaking at the UN General Assembly and visiting Venezuela and Bolivia–, Brazilian diplomacy came out with the classic excuse: the impossibility of reconciling Lula and the Iranian President’s schedules.
Still, Lula’s reluctance to meet Ahmadinejad did not prevent him from publicly supporting Iran’s nuclear energy programme and suggesting that Iran ‘should not be punished just because of Western suspicions it wants to make an atomic bomb’.
During the visit in November 2008 of the Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim to Iran, his Iranian colleague Manouchehr Mottaki said that ‘Iran affords South America major priority in its foreign policy and Brazil enjoys a special position in this respect’ and that Tehran and Brasilia generally share the same interests in numerous global matters which can be used as a potential for bilateral consultations. Amorim, for his part, described the expansion of ties with Iran as a priority for Brazil’s foreign policy. He also referred to his meeting with Mottaki as a ‘turning point’ in Brazil-Iran relations and expected that the visits by the two nations’ Presidents would bring ties to a new level.
On this occasion, President Ahmadinejad said there are no barriers to the expansion of ties with Brazil. ‘The (political) systems in the world are on the decline, and we should help each other and work for establishing a new (political) order’. Ahmadinejad expressed his hope that the visit to Iran of President Lula in the near future would further help build up the friendship between the two nations.