says Andres Oppenheimer (emphasis added):
Iran has already become the second largest investor in Venezuela, after the United States, and recently inaugurated a weekly Iran Air flight between Tehran and Caracas. Flights are packed with government officials and government-friendly business people, according to Venezuelan press reports.
In addition to opening an embassy in Bolivia, Iran is expanding its diplomatic missions across the region. After attending the inauguration of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and receiving two state medals from him in January, Ahmadinejad has stationed about 20 Iranian officials at his embassy there, which has by now become one of the largest in that country, Western diplomats say.
Earlier this year, the Iranian foreign ministry held its First International Seminar on Latin America in Tehran.
What is Ahmadinejad looking for in Latin America?
First, he is seeking Latin American support to counter U.S. 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 program in a February 2006 vote at the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency.
Second, Ahmadinejad wants to strike back at the United States in its own hemisphere. Iran may want to be able to finance anti-American groups and possibly destabilize U.S.-friendly governments in order to negotiate with Washington from a position of greater strength. Following the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Iran seems to be saying: “You got into my neighborhood; now I’m getting into yours.”
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.
Oppenheimer believes, as I do, that
the growing presence of obscure Iranian ”diplomatic personnel” in Venezuela, Nicaragua and other countries in the region raises questions over whether Iranian agents will soon start slipping into other countries to support terrorist or totalitarian groups.
Importing the Middle Eastern conflict or bringing the Iran-U.S. conflict into Latin American territory is clearly in the interest of Iran.
Una “Tercera Opción” que establezca un nuevo concepto de sociedad, que reasuma el aspecto social abandonado por la ortodoxia del ‘libre mercado’ y deseche, a su vez, la excluyente tesis gubernamental del Estado ‘socialista indigenista’.
(my translation) A “Third Way” that would bring about a new societal compact which would resume the social aspect that was abandoned by the orthodox ‘free market’, and which will at the same time discard the exclusionary governmental thesis of the ‘indigenous socialist’ state.
For starters, Bolivia has never in its history even come close to being a free market.
Investor’s Business Daily praises the new Costa Rica-US free trade agreement, which was reached after many stumbling blocks
Recognizing reality, ignoring side issues, resisting foreign meddling and embracing the future, a free and democratic Costa Rica said yes.
The Financial Times looks at Chavismo’s limits in Ecuador:
Mr Chávez has become a popular figure at home by channelling oil revenues towards social spending. But even in Venezuela his government’s top-down economic policies have failed to create jobs and diversify the economy. Elsewhere in Latin America there is growing recognition among voters that the “petro-populism” and anti-American bombast of the Venezuelan caudillo do not offer a way forward.
Centrist governments in Brazil, Mexico and Chile are strong and more than holding their own. Alan Garcia, the recovering populist who last year saw off an electoral challenge by a Peruvian ally of Mr Chávez, is gaining popularity.
Voters in Costa Rica narrowly backed their country’s membership of the US-Central America trade pact, overcoming a powerful left-wing opposition campaign. In any event, few countries have the resources to emulate Mr Chávez. Ecuador is typical in this respect. Its oil industry is smaller and exports are more broadly based than those of Venezuela, with farmers dependent on the US market.
Ecuador’s recent experience of greater government involvement in the economy has not been encouraging. In the first half of this year, for example, oil production fell and productivity continued to decline.
By imposing a 99 per cent windfall tax on international companies – which include state-owned Andes Petroleum of China and Petrobras of Brazil – Mr Correa risks cutting off investment flows to his country.
Mary Anastasia O’Grady isn’t as optimistic on Latin America, where she sees many governments engaging in “creative destruction”.
Indeed, she has plenty of evidence to go by:
I started today’s roundup with Iran and I complete it with Iran:
Nicaragua Bonds Tumble as Ortega Aligns With Iran, Venezuela:
Investor confidence ebbed as Ortega signed energy accords with Venezuela and sought investment from Iran.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who calls President George W. Bush “the devil,” says the U.S. plotted to overthrow him in 2002 and has threatened to cut off oil shipments. The Bush administration has denied the claim. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has rejected U.S. calls to halt the nation’s nuclear program.
In his UN speech last week, Ortega defended efforts by Iran and North Korea to develop nuclear power. “The enemy continues to be the same,” he said. “And it’s called global capitalist imperialism.”
Nicaragua is currently the second-poorest country in the Americas.
Special thanks to Eneas Biglione of the Hispanic American Center for Economic Research.