A top religious leader in Venezuela is warning the public about Iran’s increasing presence in his country, calling the alliance between the two nations a “disaster” intended for “geopolitical objectives,” following the Iranian foreign minister’s visit to Caracas.
Catholic Bishop Mario Moronta published a letter last week, sounding the alarm on Venezuela allowing Iran “to put its bases of operations in our country.”
“Let’s not be naïve. [Iran’s] presence had and has a geopolitical objective: To penetrate a privileged region in Latin America,” said Moronta, according to Catholic news outlet Crux Now.
“I consider that an important step is to become aware of the disaster in which we are involved, of what is coming to us, of the time that has been lost, of what could have been,” he added.
The letter came after Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif visited Venezuela on November 4 for high-level bilateral talks in which Tehran and Caracas agreed to continue defense cooperation in defiance of the United States.
Iran does have a geopolitical objective in its relations with Venezuela, according to expert Joze Pelayo, who said that Tehran is penetrating a region in Latin America with access to the Caribbean and the Atlantic, and that is three hours away from Florida - which could be seen as trying to formally establish physical leverage against the US presence in the Gulf.
The governments of Venezuela and Iran are both under intense US sanctions and the Trump administration has expressed concern over the alliance between the two countries.
“The two pariahs may now be the biggest transactional partners of the criminal economy, avoiding sanctions, gold and oil smuggling, and more,” said Pelayo, a program assistant at the US think tank Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Middle East Security Initiative, in an interview with Al Arabiya English.
US Special Representative to Iran and Venezuela Elliot Abrams told Al Arabiya English on Thursday that the Iran-Venezuela alliance is “dangerous” and that “there is nothing positive about an Iranian presence in Venezuela.”
“What are [the Iranians] there for? They’re not there to help the people of Venezuela. They’re there to help a repressive regime, stay in power, and they may be there to plant some bases of terrorist activities in the region,” said Abrams.
Abrams added that the US will “not permit long range missiles to be placed by Iran in Venezuela.”
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said in August that it would be a “good idea” to explore buying missiles from Iran.
“We will prevent it. And if by some chance the missiles escape us and get there, we will deal with them in Venezuela. It will not be permitted,” said Abrams.
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