A security and terrorism expert affirmed that Bolivia “is the most successful project” of the Iranian regime in Latin America

The Minister of Defense of Iran, Brigadier General Mohamad Reza Qarai Ashtiani and his Bolivian counterpart, Edmundo Novillo Aguilar, signed a memorandum of bilateral cooperation in Tehran on Thursday, July 20, 2023 (IRNA).

In the midst of the current war in the Gaza Strip between Israel and Hamas, unleashed by the terrorist attacks on October 7 in Israeli territory, last Tuesday the government of Bolivia, a close ally of the Iranian regime, announced the severing of relations diplomatic with Israel.

This maneuver by the government of Luis Arce It only crystallized what has been brewing for years: the close cooperation between both countries and the increasing influence of the ayatollah regime in Latin America.

Joseph Humiresecurity specialist and executive director of the Center for a Secure Free Society (SFS), spoke with Infobae about this announcement by the Bolivian government and its implications in a region “dominated by governments sympathetic to Iran.”

He also warned why the Latin American population should begin to observe with greater concern the growing influence of the Persian regime, considered one of the main promoters of terrorism globally.

-What reading do you make of Bolivia’s decision to break relations with Israel?

-The decision of the Bolivian government is something that I believe sets a precedent that other countries will follow because Latin America is dominated by governments sympathetic to Iran. Some openly like Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Cuba; and others not so much, but they do follow their political line, I am referring to Gustavo Petro in Colombia, Lula in Brazil, and Gabriel Boric in Chile. We can also mention the government of Alberto Fernández in Argentina; Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has always been a very good friend of Iran. Bolivia was the first country to make this decision, Venezuela would also do so, but it does not have an embassy in Israel. Bolivia is Iran’s most successful project in the region.

Evo Morales, former president of Bolivia, with Ahmad Vahidi, current Minister of the Interior and former Iranian Minister of Defense (AP)
Evo Morales, former president of Bolivia, with Ahmad Vahidi, current Minister of the Interior and former Iranian Minister of Defense (AP)

-Why do you consider it to be your most successful project, and what do you think is behind this strong alignment with Iran?

-Bolivia as a country does not receive anything. The government does. The more [Movimiento Al Socialismo], has been aligned with Iran from the beginning, since the time of Evo Morales. They get a lot of support from Iran in terms of how to use the system to stay in power. Iran has advised them on how to handle the opposition, how to militarize their borders, how to arm militias… On how to position themselves as a regional actor vis-à-vis their neighbors. In that aspect, Iran is important not for Bolivia, but for the MAS, which has revolutionary aspects.

-The timing of this announcement does not seem to be a coincidence, in the midst of the war in Gaza after the Hamas attacks.

-Bolivia uses the current war as a pretext, an excuse to have a more aggressive position. Everything that is happening in Israel is an Iranian project, so all the alliances that Tehran has in the world are going to begin to activate against Israel. They are doing this to do a favor for Iran, and it is not to gain something in return, but because Iran is the reason why the MAS has been able to stay in power for more than 17 years, with one interruption in the half.

-A few months ago Iran and Bolivia signed a memorandum of understanding on defense, and now Bolivia breaks relations with Israel.

-The agreement is not the beginning of this relationship, but rather the formalization of this process. Iran has already been doing advisory services since 2010. What was formal was very limited, in terms of training. This agreement is to formalize it in the defense industry. I understand that they discussed it on the trip to Tehran, and I think they did not sign it yet because they wanted to gauge the reaction before doing so, but the cooperation already exists. Agreements only serve to legitimize. They seek to see the reaction if they send drones, missiles… They will still send it, but they do not formalize it. I think the drones are going to make it official.

-Should this alliance worry the region?

-The governments, for the most part, are with Iran, but the people are not. The people do not see Iran as a relevant actor, but as a distant actor, and that is a fatal mistake. Iran has been working on this project for 40 years, and has already penetrated deeply into the region. This year they sent a warship to their president, and now they are showing their diplomatic muscle. Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba and Bolivia are the governments that do the work in the region.

Despite being considered one of the main promoters of terrorism globally, Iran has the support of the majority of the current governments in Latin America, where its influence is increasing (Rafa Neddermeyer/Agencia Brazil/ Dpa)
Despite being considered one of the main promoters of terrorism globally, Iran has the support of most of the current governments in Latin America, where its influence is increasing (Rafa Neddermeyer/Agencia Brazil/ Dpa) (Rafa Neddermeyer /Brazil Agency//)

-Do positions such as those of Argentina, Colombia and Chile, without the need to assume such a close alliance, also help to strengthen Iran’s interference in the region?

-I think they are not neutral, but rather they try to be careful. Chile allowed sanctioned planes to land in its country, they confused the world with the Iranian ship because it did not stay in Chile, but it did pass through the Strait of Magellan… Boric is a president who at the beginning of his administration spoke of opening an embassy in Palestine; I think he is much more sympathetic to Iran than he lets on. In Colombia Petro is also very similar: there are Iranian ambassadors from other countries in Latin America who traveled to Colombia because Petro is in the government. It is becoming an epicenter for Iran in the region. And Argentina has a double discourse. Because of the attacks on the AMIA, because of this year’s elections, they have to be careful… But with the Iranian plane, Justice did nothing to move forward. It has all the elements, but they released the passengers, the cargo… The only reason why the plane is still in the country is because of pressure from the United States. I think Alberto Fernández is not distant from them, and we know the story of Cristina Kirchner. The memorandum of understanding with Iran that she signed was a betrayal of the country, after the terrorist attacks that the country suffered. Prosecutor Nisman denounced him and he is dead.

These three countries are very close to Iran, but they do not have the background to show all their cards. Bolivia, on the other hand, is a country with little legitimacy and does not have to respond to the international community.

-Why is there so much interest from Iran in Latin America?

-Iran has been very clear about its objectives since the arrival of the ayatollahs, and it knows that to advance in the Middle East and the world in general, its obstacle is the United States. In the region it is Israel, but globally the United States. And to hinder the United States they have to strengthen their capacity in Latin America.

-Before I made a distinction between governments and peoples. In recent decades we have had terrorist attacks in Buenos Aires, conclusive evidence of the presence of Hezbollah in the Triple Border, diplomatic passports granted by the Venezuelan regime, the Iranian plane in Argentina sanctioned for terrorism and in one case plagued by irregular issues, and I could go on mentioning examples. Why do you think the Latin American population in general does not pay special attention to the consequences of the Iranian presence?

-If you ask the Venezuelan people, the Nicaraguan people, they will tell you that Maduro and Ortega are the worst in the world. But they have to understand that Iran is behind all this. As long as Iran grows, those regimes will remain in power. The same goes for China and Russia, but Iran has a more important role because it has a lot of experience when it comes to asymmetric wars.