Iranian President Ahmadinejad leaves Sunday on a tour of Latin America “in an apparent effort to show he is not a universal pariah despite increasing tension between Tehran and the West.” But the tour instead demonstrates what a pariah Iran is becoming.
Ahmadinejad is apparently going to visit Cuba, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Venezuela. Venezuela is of course an Iranian ally of sorts these days, under the dictatorship of Hugo Chavez. Cuba remains a communist dictatorship under the Castro brothers. Nicaragua has recently returned to rule by Daniel Ortega after he “won” a fixed election in which the country’s constitution forbade him from running, and it is no longer a free country. And Ecuador is, similarly, rated only “partly free” by Freedom House; its present government jails critics of its president for “criminal defamation.” The Committee to Protect Journalists says “Rafael Correa’s administration has led Ecuador into a new era of widespread repression by pre-empting private news broadcasts, enacting restrictive legal measures, smearing critics, and filing debilitating defamation lawsuits.” No wonder Ahmadinejad wants to visit.
There are perhaps twenty countries in Latin America and the Caribbean that are fully free, and it is no accident that Ahmadinejad appears to be visiting none of them. I am prepared to be disappointed, and to see one of the free countries (Argentina? Brazil?) invite him. That would be unfortunate, because it would signal a total lack of solidarity with the people of Iran in their struggle for free elections, human rights, and real democracy.
But on his present itinerary, Iran’s president is showing just what he and his country have become: the dictators are sticking together, and his Latin American visit is a pariah tour.