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The following is my latest piece for Al Jazeera.
In September 2007, The Miami Herald columnist Andres Oppenheimer wrote:
Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad must love the tropics. He has spent more time in Latin America than President Bush over the past 12 months.
Given that the name of the former US president was never associated with a tradition of international travel, this was not an overwhelmingly surprising calculation.
It was reiterated, however, in a 2009 investigation by Ely Karmon of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya, Israel, who additionally warned that Farsi was being taught at Venezuelan universities; that a number of Iranian engineers had acquired basic Spanish; and that the Latin American poor might respond favourably to “radical Shiite ideological teachings”.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s declaration during Ahmadinejad’s visit to Caracas later that year that “I am certain that the God in Iran is the same as the God in Venezuela” presumably did not assuage concerns.