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Chile

How the Chilean and Peruvian Presidents Can Deter Iran’s Influence in Latin America

For some scholars, the triumph of Chile’s anti-Zionist Boric can be understood as a “victory” to the Islamic regime of Iran

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Gabriel Boric, the president-elect of Chile, also comes with a pack of positions on the hot tensions that, in one way or another, impact global geopolitics. One of them is his anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian claims.

Israel is for the young president (35 years old) a “genocidal and murderous state”. He made this known to the Jewish community (18,000 people) settled in Chile. For its part, the Palestinian Diaspora is 350,000 people, the largest in the world outside the Middle East.

In June 2021 and despite the outrage of Jewish Chileans, Boric supported “a bill in Chile’s National Congress calling for a boycott of Israeli settlement goods, services and products.” The legislation with clear intentionality was drafted by the Chile-Palestine Interparliamentary Group in the Chamber of Deputies of the Chilean Congress.

For some scholars, the influence gained by Iran in this part of the American continent, for instance, the triumph of Chile’s anti-Zionist Boric, can be understood as a “victory,” which is a valuable occasion for the expansive activities of the Persian country.

“For Iran, Boric’s election represents an opportunity to raise its profile and protect its assets in this remote corner of Latin America, at a time when a rising tide of left-wing populism is once again coming to power across the region. Iran already has a foothold in every country, thanks to the cultural centers it has helped establish. It has cultivated local politicians and far-left or nativist movements. It has recruited activists, journalists and academics, proselytizing specifically among public influencers. Iranian representatives have wasted no time celebrating Boric’s victory by reminding his followers of his Twitter trolling of the local Jewish community. The Islamic Center of Iran in Santiago has already congratulated Boric, asking the new president to open his doors to Iran’s emissaries,” noted Emanuele Ottolenghi regarding the Chilean situation and the risks in terms of security and foreign policy.

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There is a warning annexed to the old Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “Owning and defending the most radical demands of the Palestinians is the core of Iran’s revolutionary agenda and the Trojan horse it has often used to win supporters throughout Latin America. Chile has always offered fertile ground, given its large Palestinian diaspora. And now, the rise to power of a politician wedded to these same radical anti-Israel views offers Iran a great opportunity,” Ottolenghi highlights.

And there is, by the way, a serious precedent. It happened with Hugo Chavez who, with a very deep anti-American and anti-Israeli sentiment (in 2010 he condemned “from the bottom of his soul and viscera, the damned State of Israel”) leveraged every infiltration project proposed by the Iranian regime. Venezuela thus became, thanks to the growing influence of the leftist extremism to which Tehran is fond, a logistical and support center that has steadily benefited both Iran and one of its most persistent, lethal and subway backers in the region: the Lebanese Hezbollah.

Peruvian pro-Iranians backed Castillo

North of Chile, in Peru, the opaque Presidency of Pedro Castillo has been inaugurated for almost half a year. As a tactic, his real leadership has not yet been fully revealed and is hiding behind an ambiguous foreign policy that is either progressive or increasingly functional to the subcontinental leftist agenda. What will be his degree of permissiveness with the Iranians and their operative arm Hezbollah’s efforts to penetrate Peruvian soil (and by effect, South America)?

During the electoral campaign of 2021, the pro-supporter and now president Castillo had the support of a key operator pointed out for his links with the Hezbollah group. As is known, this terrorist organization receives direct sponsorship from Iran via the support and training of the Quds Force (the elite unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard).

The Islamic operator is known as Edwar Quiroga and was the founder—among other entities—of Inkarri Islam, a Shiite “cultural center” based in the Apurimac region, in southeastern Peru.

Quiroga had a not minor role, appearing even in journalistic reports, where he is heard talking about the possibilities and actions that could be carried out to manipulate (annul or challenge voting records where the opponent is winning) the electoral results of the voting tables (individually, but massively) in favor of the candidacy of Pedro Castillo (who competed against Keiko Fujimori in the second round for the Presidency), especially in the regions of southern Peru. This is a thorny issue that is little talked about anymore, at the same time of Quiroga’s current disappearance from the political scene (perhaps now considered as an inconvenient element for the president’s public image).

The triumph of the ultra-left Castillo in Peru and the recent triumph of the until recently probolivarian Boric in Chile, gives Teheran the necessary oxygen to try to evade the counter-extremist efforts and the anti-terrorist sanctions that Western countries have been implementing against it.

Hezbollah increases the risk of political and criminal conflicts in Latin America

It is worth remembering that one of the major demanders and cooperators of drug trafficking cartels is the Lebanese and pro-Iranian terrorist group Hezbollah. An extra-regional actor that has managed for years to take root in Latin America and the Caribbean, making it a neuralgic zone for the generation of illicit financial and logistical resources.

With its global network, Hezbollah becomes part of the transcontinental distribution of drugs and illegal supplies.

Multiple investigations place this extremist group as an articulator of transnational criminal networks, terrorist financing and subway “pipelines” of political support. The funds obtained through illegal activities in the American continent, which are then sent to the areas of influence and conflict in which they are involved, are considerable.

The Department of Justice classified Hezbollah as a “transnational criminal organization” (TOC). Its association with Latin American drug cartels, money laundering, smuggling… in short, organized crime tied to specific and far-reaching political objectives often appear to describe its current operational nature.

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