Tehran, Iran – Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi has returned from a trip to Latin America, where he signed dozens of deals with three allies who share Tehran’s defiance of Western powers.
Iran’s president, who was accompanied by his foreign, defense, petroleum and health ministers, arrived in Tehran on Friday after a five-day trip that took him to Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba.
Throughout the visit, Raisi criticized the United States and imposed Latin American economic sanctions on Iran and its allies.
“Relations between Iran and Venezuela are not normal diplomatic relations. They are strategic,” Raisi said in Caracas, where he was warmly received by President Nicolas Maduro.
“The countries of Iran and Venezuela have enemies, who don’t want us to live freely,” he said in reference to Washington.
More than two dozen agreements have been signed between the two countries.
Several related to energy, including agreements to build an oil platform and a petrochemical products plant, and agreements on maritime transport, agriculture, medicine, information technology, insurance and cultural relations were also signed.
Iran and Venezuela signed a 20-year cooperation plan during Maduro’s visit to Tehran last year. The two presidents said this week that their new agreements are in line with better implementation of the plan.
Raisi said in Caracas that annual bilateral trade currently stands at more than $3 billion and the two countries could increase it to $10 billion in the medium term on the way to a $20 billion target.
Maduro said he wants to place a bust of Qassem Soleimani, an Iranian general who was killed in a January 2020 US drone strike in Iraq, at the resting place of Simón Bolívar, a Venezuelan military and political leader who led parts of Latin America. Independence from Spanish colonial rule two centuries ago.
Raisi’s next destination, Managua, continued the theme of praising Soleimani and bashing Washington.
Standing next to Raisi, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega dedicated a few minutes of a speech to Soleimani, after which the two leaders observed a minute of silence for the general.
“We honor all the heroes and martyrs of Iran with our heroes and martyrs, especially General Qassem Soleimani, who was killed by Yankee imperialism while fighting terrorism,” Ortega said.
Iran’s president has railed against sanctions imposed by Washington on Iran and Nicaragua following the collapse of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and a crackdown on Nicaraguan dissidents.
“The US wanted to paralyze our people with threats and sanctions, but it couldn’t,” said Raisi, who later addressed Nicaragua’s National Assembly.
According to Iranian state media, the two presidents signed several agreements on economic and trade cooperation and health.
Cuban President is going to visit Tehran
At the end of the visit, the Iranian president went to Havana. He was welcomed by Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, who pledged to strengthen political engagement with Tehran.
“When the president of Iran comes to our country under the conditions of imposing sanctions against the Cuban nation, it strengthens our faith and trust in Iran,” he said.
The Cuban president also promised to visit Tehran this year, saying a trip had been in the works for some time but had been hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic and other issues.
The two countries have signed six agreements, including a roadmap for political cooperation.
Iran’s health minister, Bahram Ainollahi, said the visit was “one of the greatest achievements of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the field of health” as Iran and all three countries agreed to establish a joint health cooperation working group.
He said Iran, which says it produces almost all the medicine it needs, would export medicine and medical equipment to Venezuela and Nicaragua, and would also aim to increase university cooperation with the three countries.
In Havana, Raisi and Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdullahian also met with former President Raul Castro.
Washington did not immediately comment on Rice’s visit. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby instead reiterated that the United States is concerned about Iran’s “destabilizing behavior” and will continue to take steps to defuse it.
Maria Elvira Salazar, chairwoman of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee of the US House of Representatives, told Fox News that Rice’s visit demonstrates the failure of President Joe Biden’s Latin America policy. He said he had “allowed the worst actors in the world to enter our hemisphere with impunity”.