Ahmadinejad tours Latin America

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad paid diplomatic visits to three Latin American countries Jan. 13-15, starting with Venezuela on Jan. 13. He and President Hugo Chavez reviewed accords they had signed in Caracas in September and signed new accords which were not immediately made public. “Iran and Venezuela will be together to the end,” Ahmadinejad said. “It’s possible that some problems will arise, but the revolutionary will of the two peoples will conquer any problem.” (EFE, Jan. 13)

Ahmadinejad went on to Nicaragua on Jan. 14 to meet with President Daniel Ortega, who took him for a tour of an impoverished Managua neighborhood. The Iranian president kissed babies and told the residents: “The imperialists don’t like us to help you progress and develop. They don’t like us to get rid of poverty and unite people. But the whole world knows that Nicaragua and Iran are together.” The two leaders signed an agreement to restore diplomatic relations and a memo of understanding that Iran would help build factories, affordable housing, dams and other projects in Nicaragua. The Iranian delegation agreed to consider forgiving Nicaragua’s $152 million debt. (Miami Herald, Jan. 15 from AP; El Nuevo Diario, Managua, Jan. 15)

Ahmadinejad concluded his tour by attending the Jan. 15 inauguration of Ecuadoran president Rafael Correa. His presence apparently accounts for the failure of Argentine president Nestor Kirchner to attend. In August 2003 an Argentine judge issued an order for the arrest of 13 Iranians in connection with the July 1994 bombing of the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association (AMIA), in which at least 85 people died. Kirchner cited “health reasons” to explain his absence. (Alai-amlatina, Jan. 15)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 21

See our last posts on Iran, Ahmadinejad’s Latin America strategy and its attendant controversies. See also our last posts on Venezuela, Nicaragua, Central America, Ecuador, and the AMIA case.