The United States has lost influence in Latin America as Iran grows its relations with countries in the region, an editor tells Press TV.
This comes as US President Barack Obama has enacted the “Countering Iran in Western Hemisphere Act”, requiring the US State Department to develop a strategy within 180 days aimed at countering Iran’s growing relations with Latin American countries.
Press TV has conducted an interview with Javier Farje, editor with the Latin America Bureau, from London, to further discuss the issue. Farje is joined by Gloria Estela La Riva, a Latin America expert from San Francisco, and Isaac Bigio, a Latin American expert from London. The following is a rough transcription of the interview.
Let’s look at the situation. Congressional Bill HR3783 says that Washington must provide for a “comprehensive strategy to counter Iran’s growing hostile presence and activity in the Western hemisphere and for other purposes”. What do you think exactly this means?
Well, it’s quite strange this position because it seems to remind everybody of a Cold War rhetoric.
This seems to be the misconception in the US that Iran is exercising a huge influence in Latin America which we know is not the case. It’s just a country which wants to open its diplomatic relations with other continents, in this case Latin America.
What the Americans don’t seem to realize is that things have changed and you mentioned this in the beginning of your report. Things have changed in Latin America. We have more left-wing governments in Latin America and Latin America has decided to take a more independent approach to whom they have a relationship with or not. That seems to be a misleading attitude in the US.
In that respect, I agree with Geoff Thale. Geoff Thale is the program director of the Washington office for Latin America, an independent think-tank based in the US which talks about the relations between the US and Latin America.
What happens is that Latin America feels uneasy about sanctions. They are very uncomfortable about accepting the harsh sanctions applied on Iran.
That doesn’t mean that Venezuela or Nicaragua or Cuba are going to create some kind of pro-Iranian, anti-American alliance that is going to put both Latin America and Iran together to fight the US. It’s not going to happen because nothing in terms of the relations between say Venezuela and Iran or Brazil and Iran seem to suggest that this alliance is going to happen.
This seems to be a misconception that this is a huge influence in Latin America but also this reflects the fact that the US has lost influence in Latin America. It no longer dictates the way Latin America establishes relationships with other countries in the world. They seem to be misunderstanding this relationship.
What they don’t seem to realize is that this is a big strategic mistake because this is very counterproductive. People are going to feel in Latin America that the US wants once again that they want to influence the way Latin America establishes relationships with other countries in the world.
Let’s look at this situation and the makeup of Latin America. As you had said earlier, it’s definitely a different makeup. It’s not the same South America as before.
Do you think that the people - a lot of them with their revolutionary perspective - that the United States could be concerned about the possibility of a sort of natural alliance?
We’ve seen even just today in Latin America now another country that, for example, a Spanish company that has been nationalized in another Latin American country. Is there a natural alliance as far as perspective between some of these revolutionary Latin American countries and the Islamic Republic of Iran?
I’m a bit cynical about those kind of alliances because, first of all, how can an alliance be formed between two completely different political, economic, religious systems? This is just simply an opening of relationships between Latin America and a country with whom there wasn’t a traditional link before. That’s the first point.
Second, there seems to be commentators in the US that seem to suggest that, what you say, there seems to be some kind of anti-American pro-Iranian alliance in Latin America.
I don’t think that’s going to be the case because no action has been taken for this to happen including among those countries which strongly support Iran like Venezuela, like Ecuador, like Bolivia, because that is not possible.
I think there’s a bit of a paranoia in the US in relation to this alleged anti-American alliance, like there’s going to be some kind of fundamentalist alliance between Iran and Latin America. I don’t think that is the case, although independent commentators would agree with what I’m saying.
What’s happening here, and I would like to go back to the issue that I mentioned at the beginning of this conversation, is that how Latin Americans feel uneasy about the sanctions against Iran. Many people in Latin America, many countries in Latin America including countries which are traditional allies of the US, believe that these sanctions are way out of proportion, are way far too hard, are affecting normal common people in Iran and, therefore, they feel uneasy about that.
That doesn’t mean there’s going to be some sort of strategic alliance. There’s going to be some common points of view but also there’s something that the Americans are missing here which is very important to mention, is the fact that it’s perfectly possible for Latin American countries to have a good relationship with Iran and a good relationship with the US.
This is the example of Brazil. Brazil is emerging as one of the biggest, most influential countries in the world - the fifth biggest economy in the world.
During the government of President Lula, there was a good relationship between Lula and President Obama and even President Bush, and there are good relations between President Lula and President Ahmadinejad. It is perfectly possible.
This is a kind of element of paranoia because Brazil will never get into some kind of alliance - anti-American, pro-Iranian alliance - because that is not possible.
There are simply two countries, one continent and one country trying to know each other, trying to respect each other’s differences in terms of politics, in terms of religion, in terms of culture, in terms of historical background.
The American government seems to feel uneasy about this because this is kind of like paranoia about thinking these countries are going to be in an alliance. It is not possible to create this kind of alliance so, therefore, there’s an element of paranoia in the US about this.
With this situation, we look at, for example, the Islamic Republic of Iran that is basically surrounded right now by the United States. The Americans have troops in Afghanistan; of course they’re in Pakistan. They’re in Turkey. They’re in the Persian Gulf. Yet, Iran basically has no right to say anything and complain.
Now we take it to Latin America which is not even the country of the United States itself, and it’s saying that Tehran doesn’t even have the right to try to even form business relationships with those countries. How can that be? How does this double-standard exist and why is it allowed to exist?
This double-standards are at the core of the way the US is behaving in relation to this strange law to prevent activities from Iran in the Northern hemisphere. First of all, I don’t know how they’re going to implement that.
Yeah, that’s one of the elements that takes me back to the first point I made in this conversation which means that Latin Americans feel uneasy about the way sanctions are punishing Iran because they had these problems of sanctions with Cuba in the past. And as we know, most Latin American countries are now against these sanctions. It has been mentioned during this program.
So, we are talking about the need Iran has to have for people in other parts of the world who will be able to speak for them because they can’t do it themselves.
Basically, what’s happening here at the moment is that Latin America is saying we are not in favor of these sanctions, we are not in favor of the way Iran is being treated; we think there are double-standards here, as you mentioned in your question. Therefore, they are siding with Iran in that respect.
Now, it’s not a anti-American, pro-Iranian alliance. This coincidence of objectives is specific points: sanctions, international trade, climate trade, etcetera, etcetera.
Iran is trying to get all the voices to join them to stop these sanctions. In this way, Latin America is showing independence of foreign speculation.