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Iran´s offensive in Latin America.



Chavez and Ahmadinejad. Photo Credit Elmer Martinez AFP Getty Images

During the last six months, Iran is developing an offensive in Latin America.  Tehran views the latinamerican region as one of the main points to overcome its increasing international isolation due to its nuclear program.

The Iranian strategy is comprehensive. For example, a few weeks ago, the inhabitants of Quito were surprised by the appearance of  street billboards calling to commemorate a new anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Khomeini.

the posters read “a lifetime dedicated to the people and the revolution”.

During the event, held on 31 May in the Auditorium of the National Council of Pichincha with the presence of Iranian diplomats, Khomeini was compared to the latinamerican independence hero Simón Bolivar.

The event was broadcasted by Hispan TV, a satellite TV channel that the Iranian regime inaugurated last December, which broadcasts news in Spanish on a 24 hours a day  basis and whose main target is the Latin American audience.

Another way of showing the Iranian involvment in the subcontinent are the Iranian diplomacy,  who have increased their activity and presence in the region. In  the case of Bolivia,  Iran has 145 diplomats accredited, more than the rest of the diplomatic corps in La Paz.

Spain, with all its historical relationship with Iran  has  between 8 and 10 Iranian diplomats.

The estimated number of Iranian diplomats accredited in Venezuela is even greater than in Bolivia.

Another important step taked by Iran is the several visits of  Iranian officials to Latin America that are constant and often are accompanied by economic benefits for the countries visited.

Recently over a week ago, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attended  a Summit on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro and then started with a mini tour in South America,  announced a few days in advance.

It is the second visit of the Iranian President in six months and the fourth in the same period of a senior Iranian top government official.

Last January, Ahmadinejad visited Venezuela, Ecuador, Cuba and Nicaragua. In May it was the turn of the vice president, Ali Saeidlo, who made the same tour also including Bolivia.

In Managua, Iranian officials announced the cancellation of debt of Nicaragua with Iran.

Days before the Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi visited Bolivia , who opened the Defense College of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), the regional integration organization that emerged on the personal initiative of Hugo Chavez. About Vahidi weighs an international warrant for his involvement in the bombings in 1992 and 1994 in Buenos Aires against the Embassy of Israel and Argentina Jewish Mutual, which caused a total of 115 dead.

In their travels, Vahidi was accompanied by Iranian representative Kanbiz Jalali, head of the Directorate General for Latin America created by the Iranian Foreign Ministry. Jalali is a  diplomat with extensive experience in the region.

Tehran is focusing on military and defense issues. In less than 24 hours has signed a military assistance pact with Bolivia. Also the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez admitted the announcement  that Venezuela is building drones under the supervision of Iranian engineers.

Ramin Keshavarz, a leading member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, is responsible for overseeing the project.

One the other hand, Brazil is not so enthusiastic about Iran . President Rousseff refused to meet privately with Ahmadinejad, despite Iran’s insistence.

Brazil is not the only obstacle. Colombia is also resisting Iran´s “charme” offensive, while in Argentina the Iranian official representation only adheres to senior diplomats, due to the arrest warrant that Justice has issued Argentina against senior Iranian officials , including Vahidi and Ali Rafsanjani, due to the bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires (AMIA).

However, this diplomatic chill has not stopped the trade between the both countries, that has gone from zero to $ 400 million in just four years, or since 2010 Iran is the second world soybean buyer Argentina.