The leaders of Iran and Venezuela on Monday mocked and joked about 'imperialism' and nuclear bombs. Ahmadinejad was in Venezuela as part of a tour of Latin American countries to shore up support for Iran after U.S. sanctions over its nuclear program.
Reuters reports that Hugo Chavez, during a welcome ceremony for Ahmadinejad at the presidential palace in Caracas, said: "One of the targets that Yankee imperialism has in its sights is Iran, which is why we are showing our solidarity. When we meet, the devils go crazy." Chavez's comment was mocking U.S. warnings to Latin American nations not to help Iran. Chavez said: "The imperialist madness has been unleashed in a way that has not been seen for a long time." He described the U.S. as a "threat to our world," and railed against "U.S. imperialism," saying: "The Venezuelan and Iranian people are on the way to fighting all the greed and arrogance of imperialism."
Chavez in a jocular mood, pointed to a mound in front of his palace steps, and said: "That hill will open up and a big atomic bomb will come out." But he said later, "The only bombs we're preparing are bombs against poverty, hunger and misery."
The two men make an elaborate show of mutual affection and friendship. Ahmadinejad said: "President Chavez is the champion in the war on imperialism." Commenting on U.S. sanctions, he said: "It's clear they (Americans) are afraid of our development."
The anti-American rhetoric of the two arch-enemies of the U.S. was, however, not matched by concrete agreements of mutual assistance or cooperation. According to Reuters, Chavez did not commit Venezuela to help Iran alleviate the effect of U.S. sanctions with fuel or cash. Both leaders avoided statements on sensitive issues such as Iran's threat to close the Strait of Hormuz through which one-sixth of the world's oil supply passes. Venezuela's oil minister said diplomatically that the organization of Oil Exporting Countries (OPEC) is not making any statement about the U.S. sanctions on Iran.
Photo courtesy Cubadebate
Fidel Castro and Venezuela President Hugo Chavez.
Both Iran and Venezuela are among the world's top oil exporting countries. The U.S. government is worried about Venezuela having close ties with Iran and is concerned that Chavez may offer Iran help that could weaken the effect of sanctions. AFP reports that Venezuelan analyst Elsa Cardozo, from the Metropolitan University of Caracas, said: "It's possible that he (Chavez) will share very radical and confrontational decisions with Ahmadinejad, but he could also suggest mediation, projecting a more conciliatory image, which would suit the leadership role he wants to take in Latin America."
Chavez joked about Iran's choice of friends in Latin America as seen from Washington's perspective, saying: "You're going to the axis of evil, Ahmadinejad." Chavez was referring to Ahmadinejad's scheduled visits to Nicaragua, Cuba and Ecuador.
Ecuador's government has expressed moral support for Iran. Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino, speaking to reporters, said: "We say with clarity that we do not accept those sanctions. We are a sovereign nation, we don't have dads punishing us and putting us in the corner for behaving badly. They (the U.S.) should instead be sanctioning the U.S. companies doing massive business in Tehran like Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola."
CNN reports Ahmadinejad's next stop in his five-day tour of Latin American countries is Nicaragua. While in Nicaragua, he will attend the inauguration of President Daniel Ortega's third term as president. Ahmadinejad will also be in Cuba and Ecuador
Brazil the regional power is conspicuously absent from the list of Latin American countries welcoming Ahmadinejad.
The United Nations nuclear watchdog on Monday, confirmed that Iran has commenced uranium enrichment in one of its facilities. Iran claims its program is exclusively for peaceful purposes, but U.S. State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland, has expressed U.S. concern. AFP reports that Nuland urged the four countries included in Ahmadinejad's tour to "do what they can to impress upon the Iranian regime that the course that it's on in its nuclear dialogue with the international community is the wrong one."