Raisi’s Latin American Tour is a Victory for Regional Diplomacy
The Iranian President’s visit was a victory for regional diplomacy as issues concerning development, connectivity and revivals of national economies came into the spotlight.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s 2023 tour to Latin America has been a victory for regional diplomacy. For years, the continent has witnessed gross neglect from US populism, lack of prioritization, racism from the Trump administration and regime change operations which has undermined its social fabrics and contributed to greater instability. As a result, the continent witnessed its progress being undermined and its development and prosperity, compromised. In contrast, Iran under Ebrahim Raisi adopted a unique, proactive, prudent and constructive approach by reaching out to Latin American governments ranging from Nicaragua, Cuba to Venezuela and establishing joint understandings and agreements which bodes well for the future of the continent.
The five-day trip produced dozens of agreements with allies and strategic partners. The President’s cohort included ministers of foreign affairs, petroleum, defense, and health who traveled with him to Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. It is noteworthy that each of these countries were beset by US sanctions which crippled their economies and had a negative trickle-down effect on their respective local populations. Such economic meltdowns were also accompanied by the unfortunate massive refugee exodus to countries such as the United States which in turn, denied them the right to settle or immigrate and subjected them to deportation. This vicious cycle was called out by President Raisi who castigated the US sanctions regime as stifling economies with great potential and hailed the region’s nations who upheld their sovereignty despite pressures.
‘The nations of Iran and Venezuela have shared enemies that do not wish us to live independently.’
These were President Raisi’s words in Caracas where he was welcomed by President Nicolas Maduro. These words also strengthen widely held scholarly and academic assessments that Iran is not the only country which has been victim of US foreign policy shenanigans and maneuvers. As both Tehran and Caracas have witnessed their energy sectors being strangulated due to American punitive measures, two dozen agreements related to developing oil platforms, petrochemical products plant, information technology, tourism, maritime transport, agriculture and culture were signed. The purpose is to ward off the negative effects of American hegemonic designs and put oil rich Venezuela back towards sustainable development and a securer future.
The agreements with Venezuela followed a 20-year cooperation plan that was signed by the two sides last year in Tehran as both Presidents affirmed that they will implement the plan. President Raisi for example, stated that the volume of annual bilateral trade stood at more than $ 3bn while there is potential to boost it to $10bn in the medium run and work towards the eventual target of $20bn. Similarly in Nicaragua, both him and President Ortega railed against American sanctions by equating them with paralyzing local populations and criticized how the United States systematically muzzled out the Nicaraguan opposition to the detriment of actual democracy in the country. Agreements between the two sides were signed on economic and trade cooperation as well as in the health sector with an aim of repairing the damage done due to gross neglect.
On the last leg of the tour, President Raisi also visited Cuba. Six agreements were signed between the two sides. At a trade forum with local businessmen in Havana, President Raisi stated that both countries will work together on areas such as biotechnology, energy generation and mining. A tour to Cuba’s biotechnological production plants in western Havana also took place alongside a close door reception at the Palace of Revolution. A meeting with former President Raul Castro also took place and according to Iranian Health Minister Bahram Einollahi, the tour to Cuba was one of the largest achievements for the Islamic Republic in the health sector, as Cuba along with Nicaragua and Venezuela agreed to set up a joint health cooperation working group. This is critical as sanctions prevented medicinal supplies from arriving in countries such as Nicaragua and Venezuela. Iran’s ability to produce excess medicines for national consumption now enables it to export drugs and medical equipment to each of the three states.
As far as Cuba is concerned, agreements aimed at boosting the energy sector is of particular relevance for Havana. The country has been rocked by protests over fuel shortages in the past few weeks in June 2023 and a lifeline for a country which has remained on the fringes and been economically isolated by the United States is critical. Iran’s ability to provide a source of energy for Havana becomes ideal as the country looks to unlock the shackles of the past and move towards a more energy resilient future.
As a result of this successful tour which was characterized by meaningful, all-encompassing and comprehensive cooperation, it was expected that it would be evoke a wistful response from Washington D.C. National Security Council spokesman, John Kirby stated that the United States is concerned about Iran’s ‘destabilizing behavior’ on the continent and will continue to take steps to mitigate it. In truth, such claims can be equated with frustration due to strategic miscalculations as according to Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere in the US House of Representatives, Maria Elvira Salazar, as Raisi’s trip demonstrates the failure of the Biden administration’s Latin America policy.
What is clear however, is that the Iranian President’s visit was a victory for regional diplomacy as issues concerning development, connectivity and revivals of national economies came into the spotlight. That is precisely what is needed.