By Lauren Paverman
On January 8, 2012, the U.S. State Department declared Venezuelan consul general Livia Acosta Noguera persona non grata and ordered her to leave the U.S for her alleged involvement in an Iranian computer scam. The announcement took place the same day that President Ahmadinejad began his four-country tour of Latin America, which included a stop in Venezuela. There is little question that at least part of the motivation for the State Department’s action was the umbrage that it felt against any Latin American State that took action reflecting a feeling of normality in their ties with Iran’s President, Ahmadinejad.
The U.S. has not yet released a statement in defense of its decision to expel the consul general. However, some sources have pointed to claims made in a documentary entitled “The Iranian Threat,” released over Univisión on December 8, 2011, as a major cause. Added to this possible explanation was the role played by former Secretary of State, Rose Norieja, an ultra-conservative ideologue who previously had played a continuously conservative role as assistant secretary of state for Latin America in the second Bush administration. Univisión is often guided by rightwing political objectives. The president of the network, César Conde, worked as a White House Fellow under the Bush administration.
The visit itself will most likely not lead to any significant advances in Iran-Latin American ties. If 2012 were not an election year, the United States could have essentially ignored Ahmadinejad’s visit; instead, Washington chose to take action against Venezuela by expelling Noguera in an effort to show conservative Venezuelan, Nicaraguan and Cuban exile communitites living in the Gulf States that the Obama White House is going to maintain a firm stance against Venezuela and its ties with Iran. Unfortunately, the consul general’s expulsion is just another example of the U.S.’ headline and opportunistic policy toward an admittedly difficult Hugo Chavez Venezuelan administration
Ahmadinejad’s tour of Latin America is symbolic of the consequences of decades of misguided U.S. foreign policy toward the region. Ahmadinejad has established a surprisingly broad presence in Latin America, an area of the world that historically has been at the center of the U.S.’ sphere of influence. He has proven that, while Iran may be an outcast in the eyes of much of the Western world, it has gained support in at least these four countries that often promote an anti-U.S. sentiment. Ahmadinejad’s visit to the region served as a way for he and the leaders with whom he met to show their solidarity in the face of U.S. interventionist policies.
Lauren Paverman is a COHA Research Associate