Bolivia and Iran have seemingly litle in common but immense expanses of desert and natural gas reserves. But that hasn't stopped the controversial Islamic nation from reaching out to extend it's diplomatic relations across Latin America.
Bolivian President Evo Morales was first introduced to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad when Hugo Chavez flew him to Bolivia in September 2007. Morales then followed suit by traveling to
Iran a year later. Since then, the Iranian government has reached out to the people of Bolivia, sending millions of dollars in aid and even helping to build a milk plant in Achacachi, a town two hours west of La Paz, the capital of Bolivia.
But some doubt that the altruistic tendencies Ahmadinejad has displayed towards Bolivia are genuine. Jorge Quiroga, Bolivia's former president and a noted political conservative said Iran is benefiting in clear ways from its investment in Bolivia."Iran needs international recognition. It needs to show that it is not an international pariah. We have no cultural, historical or commercial ties whatsoever. Bolivia knows nothing about Iran."
At first glance it seems he is correct, Morales is a coca-farming, socialist Aymar Indian while Ahmadinejad is a political and religious conservative who heads an Islamic republic. But they do share one trait, and that is a general distrust of the United States government and it's influence around the world. They also stood in solidarity when it came to the Israeli/Gaza conflict that shook up the Middle East at the beginning of the year, condemning the attacks and cutting diplomatic ties with the Jewish nation.
This has US Defense Secretary Robert Gates a bit worried, "I'm concerned about the level of, frankly, subversive activity that the Iranians are carrying on in a number of places in Latin America, particularly South America and Central America," Gates told a Senate committee Jan. 27. "They're opening a lot of offices and a lot of fronts, behind which they interfere in what is going on in some of these countries."
Iran also has begun to assist Ecuador and Nicaragua. Tell us: What do you think? Is Iran trying to take over Latin America one country at a time, or are they merely helping countries that are largely ignored?