Iran sent its top diplomat to Latin America to strengthen relations with leftist nations in the Western Hemisphere, while the United States continued to count votes to determine the winner of its still undecided presidential election.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met for the first time on Thursday in Caracas with senior Venezuelan officials such as Vice President Delcy Rodriguez, Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza and President Nicolás Maduro. Both countries have been subjected to a campaign of “maximum pressure” by President Donald Trump in recent years, and the officials adopted a defiant tone when they criticized U.S. sanctions and threats against their and other nations.
“This sense of brotherhood and friendship between our peoples is for the struggle that both countries are waging against imperialism,” Zarif said after talks with Arreaza, according to the Venezuelan State Department.
He said the two countries were at the height of their bilateral relations and the pair would strengthen cooperation in areas such as science, industry, technology, trade and defense despite Washington’s restrictions.
Instead of being driven apart by such U.S. measures, Zarif said Iran and Venezuela would strengthen their relations, as both Iranian and Venezuelan officials had previously told Washington Newsday.
“The United States government has a long history of intervention in countries solely for its own benefit,” Zarif said. “We hope that the United States government will change its attitude,” Zarif said.
He also joined Arreaza for an event entitled “Iran and Venezuela in Defense of the Future World,” where both men reaffirmed their positions in support of a multipolar world that supports their countries’ position more than that of a unilateral U.S. government.
The White House broke off relations with the socialist Maduro government early last year after a controversial election in which the U.S. has since recognized the head of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, as interim head of state. Despite support from the U.S. and some other regional and international partners, Maduro remains in power with military backing at home and international support from powers such as Russia, China and Iran.
The Venezuelan leader was also supported by Cuba, where Zarif next stopped for his Latin American trip.
The Cuban Foreign Ministry said in an official statement that “the distinguished visitor will hold official talks with the Cuban authorities and carry out other activities of interest”.
Havana has been under intense economic embargo by Washington for decades, since the island came under the control of revolutionary leader Fidel Castro just 90 miles off the coast of Florida. Former President Barack began thawing relations with Communist-run Cuba, but Trump set about reversing these measures and tightening the blockade, especially as punishment for Maduro’s empowerment.
“The blockade imposed on Cuba by the U.S. government represents the most complex and protracted system of unilateral coercive measures ever imposed on a country,” said Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla during a press conference on Thursday.
Zarif and Arreaza also protested on Thursday against a “blockade” against their countries.
For its part, Washington sees the convergence of the opinions of its opponents as proof that the Trump administration’s policy was justified.
“Your friends define you,” tweeted Michael Kozak, deputy US secretary in the Western Hemisphere Affairs Office, on Thursday.
“Iran’s @JZarif and the Castro regime have much in common: human rights violations, authoritarianism, the theft of Venezuela’s wealth and the spread of malign influence around the world,” he added. “Their joint action underlines their lack of legitimacy”.
After his trip to Cuba, Zarif was to visit another like-minded leader, Bolivian President-elect Luis Arce.
Arce, a member of the Movement for Socialism (MAS), won his country’s national elections last month after a year-long political crisis that followed the re-election of MAS leader Evo Morales. The country’s opposition as well as the USA suspected fraud, and Morales resigned. He said he had been forced to do so and had only the intention to avoid violence.
His supporters, however, condemned the series of events as a coup d’état, especially since he had been forced to