A colleague in South America sent me a news item that I wanted to pass along to my readers. Folks who follow regional matters have known for some time that Iran has slowly been creeping its way into various pockets in the Americas. Pick a leftist, rogue, and anti-American leader in the Western Hemisphere and chances are that Iran has some sort of relationship with the country. Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Bolivia are favorite places, but there are more contacts.
Reports about an Iranian-run television station in central Bolivia have been circulating ever since the Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited the region in mid-2007 and both countries signed several trade accords and cooperation agreements. Iran would open and operate a Spanish-language news (i.e., propaganda) facility in the coca-rich region for “all of Latin America,” or so say the Iranians.
Empty rhetoric or threat? When it comes to the Iranians and our interests, always err on the latter. Whether building roads and other infrastructure for a port at Monkey Point, Nicaragua, opening a “trade and commercial” office in Quito, Ecuador, and several other projects throughout the Americas, Iran is depositing asymmetrical challenges and bolstering its position in our own immediate sphere of influence.
Chapare, where the station will be opened, is in the Cochabamba Department – a haven for Bolivian cocaleros, among others in the illegal drug trade. The region has been important enough to the U.S. that the Drug Enforcement Agency (“DEA”) has maintained what it calls a Resident Office in the region. As part of prior U.S./Bolivian anti-drug efforts, it used to be illegal to cultivate coca in that region. No longer, Morales legalized it.
If and when this Iranian TV station is opened to broadcast anti-American, pro-radical Islamic poison to “all of Latin America,” it will join the ranks of the Cuban/Venezuelan-run propaganda broadcast company called Telesur. As far as Iran’s choice of locales, make no mistake about it, Bolivia’s leftist President Evo Morales must has selected or approved the site to challenge us or, in the long run, push us out completely.
It is not as if we need to concern ourselves all that much about these broadcasts. Our message of freedom, free markets, and democracy beat out the communists during the Cold War, it will surely, in the long-run, crush these radical Islamofacists and anti-American populists in the Americas. In the meantime, no good deed should go unpunished. In a post-09.11.11 world such petty annoyances can become larger problems if left unchecked.
As Congressional leaders consider ATPDEA extension, it should keep these and related matters in mind. If there is even an scintilla of truth to this Iranian broadcast venture, U.S. diplomats should get on the phone or dispatch our Ambassador to Bolivia and make a point of reminding our Bolivian friends that dancing with our enemies is, well, not a good thing. Besides, Evo Morales is barely keeping that country together to begin with. He should focus on national events by minding his own home and keeping troublemakers out of our Hemisphere. Responsiblity, common sense, and bold U.S. leadership, things missing far too long from the regional focus of things.