After delivering a fiery U.N. speech, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad swung through Latin America to strengthen ties with a couple of friendly leftist leaders: Evo Morales of Bolivia and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. Chavez, who’s no stranger to President Bush’s hot temper, called Ahmadinejad “one of the greatest anti-imperialist fighters,” clearly a reference to his opposition to the United States.
Ahmadinejad’s trip underscored his growing ties to Latin American nations, including 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.”
The closer ties are viewed with alarm by the opposition in Venezuela and Bolivia, and by Washington. U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, a Florida Republican, said they remind him “of the relationship that Fidel Castro had with Russia.” He urged Washington to reach out more to a region analysts say it has largely ignored since 9-11.