Iran’s president Ahmadinejad has abruptly postponed his much heralded trip to Brazil, due this week, with neither side anxious to give any explanation.
Ahmadinejad has long tried to visit Brazil, and, until this most recent trip was finally accepted, had been politely rebuffed because of Iran’s international pariah states and state sponsorship of terrorism, including attacks carried out in Latin America.
Brazil, Latin America’s largest economy by far, and aspiring to be taken seriously as a major player on the world stage, could not be bothered.
When Ahmadinejad was visiting the neighborhood and wanting to drop by, Brazil’s president Lula always found that he had no space in his very busy agenda to accomodate the request. But Lula had relented, given Iran’s undeniable influence in the region. Until this sudden snafu.
It should be remembered that Brazil has explicitly refused to sell Venezuela nuclear technology because of Venezuela’s insistence that Iran be involved in the technology transfer.
Lula has rebuffed Chavez and Iran in other small ways in the past, but seemed prepared for an exchange of state visits, given Iran’s growing clout and the seeming inability of the United States or its allies to offer a viable strategy for containment.
The embrace of Ahmadinejad was drawing internal criticism even from Lula supporters. As the article notes, Acceptance by Lula, the leader of the Latin America’s biggest economy, puts Iran on a new diplomatic plane in the region.
“It’s a mistake and inappropriate,” said Roberto Abdenur, who was Lula’s ambassador to Washington from 2004 to 2007. “What this man says and represents completely contradict what Brazil stands for, its commitment to peace and its repudiation of anti-Semitism.”
It seems, my sources in the region say, that Lula, unlike his counterparts in Venezuela and Bolivia, actually has to pay attention to the electorate, because, unlike them, he is committed to stepping down at the end of his term and allowing free and fair elections to be held.
And many of his constituents are unhappy with the visit by a conservative, homophobic, anti-Semitic theocrat. Somehow that seems to clash with the values of tolerance, freedom and progress that Brazil prides itself on. Following protests in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo last week, Lula apparently pulled the plug.
So, the entourage of more than 100 ministers, businessmen and intelligence operatives decided to cancel the entire trip (which was to have included Venezuela-of course-and Ecuador).
It is hard to know if there is a larger message in this. Maybe the magic of Iran’s endless but empty promises of large-scale investment and marketing opportunities are finally wearing thin. Maybe someone realized that they don’t have to play with Iran if they find the leadership and its actions unsavory. Maybe Lula just realized it was added freight he did not have to carry.
Whatever it was, it was a setback for Iran in the region. And that is not a bad thing.