Chavez Presses Allies to Back Iran
The economic situation in Iran is dreadful and Hugo Chavez is responding.
Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez, left, embraces Bolivia’s President Evo Morales at the inauguration of the Alba Games in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, Saturday, April 28, 2007. Venezuela is hosting the Alba Games along side the fifth summit of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, or ALBA, a trade and cooperation group which aims to provide an alternative to U.S.-backed free trade efforts in Latin America. (AP Photo/Leslie Mazoch)
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is encouraging his Latin American allies to expand ties with Iran, which is offering trade concessions and financial incentives and winning influence in the region.
During two recent visits to Venezuela, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad signed more than $17 billion worth of economic agreements with Mr. Chavez.
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega last month received Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki while Bolivian President Evo Morales announced a new trade deal with Iran.
“The struggle for justice and truth in the framework of economic development is the principle objective of the government in Nicaragua and of our friends in Iran,” said Mr. Ortega when Mr. Mottaki arrived after stopping in Venezuela for talks with Mr. Chavez.
Mr. Ortega called Iran a “victim” of the U.S., which he accused of “supporting terrorism.”
Speaking in the rural Bolivian community of San Julian on the same day, Mr. Morales told peasant supporters to grow soybeans to export to Iran.
“In the last meeting I had with the ambassador of Iran, he told me that his country will buy all the production that we generate,” Mr. Morales said in announcing the imminent arrival of an Iranian trade delegation.
Bolivian officials say that they need new markets for agricultural products, which may lose U.S. tariff preferences over Mr. Morales’ refusal to sign a free-trade agreement with Washington and eradicate coca plantations that supply international cocaine traffickers.
Officials also credit Iran with offering much needed aid and investment.
Amir Taheri has more on the grim state of the Iranian economy which may be at its worst since the 1970’s.