With Mercosur‘s rally against British sovereignty over the Falkland Islands and outlandish claims regarding US policy towards Latin American leaders, the last few months have been a tumultuous period for the Americas. Now, amidst the highly contentious words of President Daniel Ortega that Iran and Nicaragua are revolutionary brothers, it seems as if the governments of Latin America have been imbued with a zealous and anti-western élan which shows no signs of slowing down. One must raise the question, therefore, what does such defiance against the formerly ominous shadow of US foreign policy signify?
In the case of Ortega and Ahmadinejad, one can only reel at the potential damage caused by the controversial Nicaraguan President. Posing with outspoken Venezuelan leader Hugeo Chavez, both men revelled in their apparent unity at Revolution Square, as Ortega was sworn in for his third time as President. It is a move that will have no doubt enraged senior policy makers in Washington, painfully harking back to the 1979 socialist insurrection against the US-backed Somoza dynasty. In addition, such political bravado comes at a time of heightened tensions between the US and Iran, in which increasingly aggressive rhetoric, the execution of supposed spies and the clandestine killings of Iranian nuclear scientists are all too common. Thus, it seems as if the primarily left-wing leaders of Latin America are banding together in a unified effort to form a new power structure, something which according to Chavez is “the only thing that will allow us to truly be free”.
…a clear message of antagonism to Barack Obama.
Granted, the United States does have a long history of economically and politically influencing its Southern neighbours, a tense relationship which has been far from egalitarian in nature. Yet the anti-western sentiment felt in recent months will only further damage the already fraught relationship between the US and its dissenters, a pivotal moment in which Iran could feel bolstered to go ahead with its previously dismissed threats to close the Strait of Hormuz.
Alongside Ortega and Chavez’s demonstrably anti-American stances, the condemnation of the NATO-backed campaign against former Libyan dictator Colonel Gaddafi will send out a clear message of antagonism to Barack Obama. It seems as if criticism will be readily dished out at any given opportunity by a range of countries, who now feel with some aggrievement, that the era of US political domination is over. However, does the fervently delivered rhetoric of both Latin American and Iranian leaders actually hold any weight within the international community?
…the currently diminishing state of the nation’s trade balance…
So far, such efforts to pander to one another have generally demonstrated a verbal display of commitment, with many feeling sceptical about the likelihood of a unified Latin-Iranian coalition. Persian promises of constructing long-awaited ports and oil refineries within the Southern half of the Americas have yet to fully materialise, prompting some to question whether Iran will ever follow through with such haughtily designed plans. Given the currently diminishing state of the nation’s trade balance, it certainly appears as if Ahmadinejad is scrambling for political allies. Such suspicions have been eagerly furthered by Washington, which has disparagingly branded the cosying up to Chavez and Co. as a desperate attempt to win friends.
Yet US reports leaked in 2009 warned of Tehran’s closeness to Caracas, alongside the potential development of uranium enrichment facilities between the two governments, thereby highlighting a certain element of fear in the aggrandising statements of seemingly confident US officials. Whatever the case may be, it is evident that the diplomatic triangle of the US, Iran and Latin America has been and will become increasingly strained in the coming years. Diplomatic tensions in 2012, therefore, have started off with a bang and ominously look set to continue that way.