- The Washington Times - Friday, July 20, 2007

Nests of terrorism

Iran is trying to export radical Islam throughout Latin America and is getting a helping hand from Venezuela’s anti-American president,Hugo Chavez, according to a former Latin American ambassador.

With Mr. Chavez acting as a guide, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has made two visits to South America since September and has already established a large embassy in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, which now has daily flights to the Iranian capital, Tehran.

“Clearly, allowing Mr. Chavez and Mr. Ahmadinejad to fill Latin America with potential nests of terrorism is unacceptable to those who live in liberal democracies,”Jaime Daremblum, a former Costa Rican ambassador to the United States, wrote in an opinion piece published in the New York Sun this week.

He noted that Iran has announced plans to open an embassy in Nicaragua and reopen diplomatic missions in Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Uruguay.

Mr. Chavez promotes a political system based on absolute rule shielded by a facade of democracy,” Mr. Daremblum wrote. “Failure to counter the activities of Mr. Chavez would be a victory for authoritarianism, for the mullahs [of Iran] and for the terrorists, but a terrible setback for Latin America.”

He said Mr. Chavez also allowed the Lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian Hamas terrorist organizations to open offices in Caracas.

All of that activity has prompted some foreign diplomats to dub the Venezuelan capital as “Caracastan,” said Mr. Daremblum, now director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the Washington-based Hudson Institute.

He added that many Latin American leaders are also worried by Mr. Chavez’s weapons buildup, which includes advanced missile-launching submarines, Russian fighter planes, helicopters, thousands of assault rifles and anti-aircraft missile systems.

Venezuela’s huge arsenal, which already far exceeds the needs of national defense and border protection, will expand even further,” Mr. Daremblum said.

“Quite rightly, many in the region see Mr. Chavez’s stockpiling of weapons as a destabilizing factor, … raising fears that some of the weapons amassed by Venezuela might end up in the hands of radical groups in Latin America.”

‘Build the wall’

Mexico’s new ambassador got a lesson in hardball American politics when he dropped by the office of a U.S. senator during the high-octane debate over the immigration bill.

Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan told editors and reporters at The Washington Times yesterday that he was mindful of the limited time he would have with the senator, whom he declined to identify, and knew he had to get right to his points. As he glanced around his office, however, the ambassador could not help asking about a pile of bricks along one wall.

The senator walked over the bricks and said, “This is my form of hate mail,” Mr. Sarukhan recalled him saying.

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