Despite a flurry of deals signed in recent years, some say Iran's economic and political influence in Latin America is shrinking. Only a handful of countries in the region – mostly impoverished, with the exception of Venezuela – extend an open hand to Ahmadinejad and Venezuela is the clear ringleader.
Without him in office – a possibility given Venezuela’s presidential election in October, as well as his cancer diagnosis – the other countries very well may forgo the friendship, says Meir Javedanfar, an expert on contemporary Iranian politics at the Interdisciplinary Center – Herzliya in Israel.
After Nicaragua, Ahmadinejad will head to Cuba and Ecuador. The countries not on his agenda, however, are more telling: he will not be visiting the region's powerhouse economies, most notably Brazil. That is significant because former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva reached out to Ahmadinejad, inviting him to visit in 2009. But Current President Dilma Rousseff does not seem to have warmed to Ahmadinejad. “When (Iran) lost Lula, it was a big setback for them,” says Mr. Javedanfar.
Overall, Iran is highly unpopular in Latin America. On a list of nine countries in the 2011 Latinobarometro poll, Iran comes in as least popular (Israel is almost equally as unpopular).