Latin America welcomes Ahmadinejad
After being derided in New York City, the Iranian leader looks to the south for friends.
After a visit to New York and the United Nations General Assembly at which Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came in for tough questions about his country's violations of basic human rights and its nuclear program, he's embarked on a tour of Latin America where it looks assured he'll receive a much warmer reception. Analysts say that the Iranian leader hopes to build ties in the south in order to help the nation's bid for a seat on the UN Security Council.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Associated Press reports he’s looking to extend trade and oil deals with some of the left-leaning governments south of the US as a counterweight to American involvement in the Middle East.
He and (Bolivian) President Evo Morales were expected to sign accords that Bolivian officials say could help them better tap the continent's second-largest natural gas reserves after Venezuela's and drum up urgently needed agricultural investment.
Ahmadinejad then heads to Caracas to meet Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, who has defended Iran's claims that its nuclear program is for peaceful energy purposes.
Ahmadinejad's trip south underscores his strengthening links to Latin American nations that also include Nicaragua and Ecuador even as the United States tries to isolate him internationally.
"It's a connection that is growing stronger all the time," said Alberto Garrido, a Venezuelan writer and political analyst. "It's Iran's answer to the United States on its own home turf. The United States is in the Middle East, so Iran is in Latin America."
That Iran is looking to strengthen ties among countries that are distrustful of the United States' regional and global intentions is no surprise, given the increasing pressure Ahmadinejad's coming under from the US. The Washington Post reports that he failed to improve his country's standing and image during his visit to New York.
After several days of controversy, heckling and vitriolic headlines in the local tabloid newspapers, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit to New York was capped Wednesday by a 76 to 22 U.S. Senate vote calling on the Bush administration to designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization.
The congressional rebuke a few hours before Ahmadinejad's Iran Air 747 departed reflected what American scholars and Iranians alike depicted as a missed opportunity by the Iranian president to ease mounting tensions between Iran and the West, particularly the United States.
He had an opportunity to present himself to the American people in a way that would make conflict less likely. And I don't think he succeeded," said John H. Coatsworth, the Columbia University dean who moderated a speech in which Ahmadinejad insisted on Iran's right to pursue uranium enrichment for a nuclear energy program, denied the existence of Iranian gays, and defended additional research on whether the Holocaust occurred.