BUENOS AIRES – A controversial agreement between Iran and Argentina to investigate jointly a terrorist attack against a Jewish organization in Buenos Aires in 1994, which killed 85 people, has opened an intense debate about Iranian influence in Latin America. This is unusual, because Latin American leaders often ignore events that fuel global tensions, regardless of their repercussions on the continent’s politics.
For decades, Cuban and Soviet support for guerrilla movements – and backing by the United States for Latin America’s anticommunist military regimes – was rarely part of regional explanations for the insurgent violence and state terrorism that plagued the continent even after the Cold War’s end. Today, the growing strength of the region’s democracies is helping to heal the wounds of that violence, but the difficulty of incorporating global factors into national political analysis continues. Links with Iran – and their costs – are no exception.
A couple of years ago, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Venezuela, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Cuba. These four countries’ governments, which claim to be progressive, received – without a hint of concern – a leader who denies the Holocaust; beat, jailed, repressed, and killed protesters who objected to the fraudulent election that brought him a second term in office; and flaunts his contempt for individual liberties, with gay Iranians particularly vulnerable.
Why do some leftists find Iran’s reactionary, homophobic president so seductive? Are they enthusiastic simply because he opposes the US? Does being anti-American excuse all sins and justify all friendships? Maybe the answer is simpler: often, it is not shared ideas and values that bring individuals together, but rather power and money.