We should also note many South American countries are home to large Arab populations. For example, some 300,000 Palestinian nationals reside in Chile, compared with only 30,000 Jews. Argentina has 3.5 million people of Arabic descent but only 182,000 Jews. Brazil has 1.5 million Arabs and fewer than 96,000 Jews. These numbers cannot be separated from the recent wave of Palestinian statehood recognition.
Finally, the Iranian theocracy has greatly expanded its strategic presence in the Western Hemisphere, mostly through its alliance with Venezuela but also through burgeoning partnerships with Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua, all of which have left-populist governments. (Last month, Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño declared that “Iran is one of Ecuador’s most strategic partners in political and economic fields and we would like all bilateral agreements and joint projects become operational.”) Meanwhile, in return for economic concessions, the Argentine government has reportedly offered to suspend investigations of two Iranian-backed terrorist bombings that struck the Israeli embassy (in 1992) and the AMIA Jewish Community Center (in 1994) in Buenos Aires. (The two attacks killed or wounded hundreds.) Iran’s economic relationships in Latin America have helped it to withstand the pain of global sanctions aimed at curbing its nuclear program, which poses an existential threat to the Jewish state. Moreover, a 2009 Israeli foreign ministry report obtained by the Associated Press indicated that Venezuela and Bolivia are supplying Iran with uranium.
The Iranian push into Latin America should further galvanize Israeli diplomats to rejuvenate their efforts in the region. For too long, Jerusalem was a passive participant in hemispheric affairs. Thankfully, its approach is now changing, and not a minute too soon.
(Read this article in Spanish here.)