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The US Government’s Latin American Policies are Bringing Iran and Gangs Closer to Home 

 

Irina Tsukerman

Foreign Policy Association, Aug. 30, 2022

“All of those countries have several things in common – strong opposition to capitalism, populist distaste for the United States, close relations with narcotraffickers, and alliances with Iran, China, and Russia.”

The recent news that Venezuela will be providing Iran with 1 million hectares of arable land for farming draws further concern from the security circles concerned about the Islamic Republic’s growing influence in the Western Hemisphere.  That follows a rapidly growing energy collaboration between Caracas and Tehran following the Biden administration’s decision to lift oil sanctions on the Maduro regime. This collaboration includes the boosting of Iran’s crude supply to Venezuela for refining, which gives room for an increased export of Iranian oil for sale – and further undermines the impact of sanctions on Iran’s operations.  

There is reason to believe that the recent US government’s foreign policy in Latin America has encouraged a more assertive political and defense cooperation between leftist governments, rogue regimes such as Iran, and its terrorist proxy Hezbullah, as well as assorted criminal enterprises and gangs. 

With the election of the FARC-affiliated leftist president of Colombia, Gustavo Petro, the United States is losing one of its few remaining allies in Latin America. US-Colombia cooperation on drug trafficking and counterterrorism strengthened Colombia against cartels, curtailed the Marxist-Leninist FARC rebels (despite the ill-advised peace deal), limited the spread of Hezbullah and its Venezuelan supporters, and bolstered Israel and Colombia’s security relationship. 

Colombia helped prevent the assassination of an Israeli businessman by Hezbullah, allegedly planned in retaliation for the liquidation of Qassem Soleimani. But stability in Colombia has always been contingent on US political and security support. The refugee crisis in Venezuela, which brought 3.5 million Venezuelans to Colombia, has resulted in economic concerns and risks of destabilization.  Instead of addressing this crisis, the Biden administration has announced the removing of FARC from the Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) list. Colombia and the European Union withdrew the “terrorist” label from FARC when the peace agreement was first concluded in an effort to encourage integration, but FARC has factionalized into militias that engage in occasional bouts of violence.  The US administration’s signal that it no longer considers FARC a security threat could embolden the group’s worst elements. With the newly elected President Petro pursuing the policy of decriminalization of cocaine, many fear that the policy will give cover to drug cartels, and Hezbullah to enter the markets under more official covers and embed themselves further. 

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