The regimes of Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela strengthened their geopolitical alliance with Iran during a “friendly tour” of the Islamic country’s Foreign Minister Hosein Amir-Abdollahian. Experts, however, warn that Iran is an unreliable ally, which is alienated from the international community, and abuses its trade relationship with other nations to finance and carry out acts of terrorism.
“Iran is a bad partner for our countries because it remains on the margins of the international community, sponsors terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas, and even has a very dubious role in the war in Syria,” Eliseo Núñez, a Nicaraguan political analyst and former congressman, told Diálogo on April 5. “All this without taking into account the issue of oppression against women and youth; it is a theocratic state that has no freedoms.”
“These tours seek to empower dictators, promote shady business, and make high-voltage geopolitics,” Arturo McFields Yescas, former Nicaraguan ambassador to the Organization of American States, told Argentine news site Infobae. “The security of the Americas is at risk. The region requires preventive and proactive leadership, an international community that acts before dictatorships are established and before armed conflicts are generated.”
Laureano Ortega, son of Nicaraguan dictators Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo, who is the regime’s investment advisor, offered to the Iranian diplomat to turn Nicaragua into a platform to export Iranian products to Central America, Nicaraguan newspaper Confidencial reported. John Feeley, former U.S. ambassador to Panama qualified the suggestion as a “bad joke,” adding that Iran had nothing, other than petroleum oil, which is under sanctions, to offer to Nicaragua and Central America.
Indeed, Iran, just like Nicaragua, is under international sanctions for its anti-democratic actions — a critical factor in both countries’ relationship.
“Iran is an expert in evading sanctions, and it is very important to the Ortega-Murillo regime; this is the main asset it finds in it [the Iranian regime],” Nuñez said. “Ortega has basically been able to navigate all the individual sanctions that he has, and this is due to very strong advice from Iran.”
During Abdollahian’s visit, Venezuela for its part pledged “to continue strengthening our strategic cooperation in defense of sovereignty and self-determination,” Venezuelan Foreign Minister Yvan Gil said via Twitter.
For Costa Rican Foreign Minister Arnoldo André, the Iranian presence in these countries is obscure because of Iran’s lack of cooperation with the international Atomic Energy Agency.
“In an increasingly polarized world, with a conflict that could lead to the use of nuclear weapons, the international community must be vigilant so that all members of the United Nations commit themselves to nuclear non-proliferation,” André told Voice of America in February.
Cuba, which has the longest-lived dictatorship in Latin America, was “deeply grateful” for Tehran’s support in the Cuban struggle against the U.S.-imposed embargo, Spanish news agency EFE reported.
In Latin America, Iran already has a documented history of abusing its diplomatic relationship with certain countries, using it to commit acts of terrorism, such as happened with the bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association in Buenos Aires in 1994.
“This is very important for two reasons: Iran, years before the bombing, enjoyed a privileged trade relationship in the area of meat imports and exports,” Joseph Humire, director of Washington, D.C.-based think tank Center for a Secure Free Society, told Diálogo. “Instead of taking advantage of this privileged trade relationship they had with Argentina, they used it as an intelligence apparatus to increase their operations at the Iranian Embassy in Buenos Aires, and also to disguise the financing they did to organize this attack. They abused this commercial relationship and those were the results.”
For McFields Yescas, “peace, security, and prosperity do not happen by accident. They are built with the efforts of courageous citizens, responsible governments, and the support of an active international community. Latin America must and can continue to be a peace zone.”