Since 1979, Iran has been ruled by an Islamist regime. Since then, Shiite Islamic clerics control many of the Persian country’s institutions. In Iran, repression against dissidents is clear and evident. Among the persecuted are not only monarchists and liberals, but also feminists, homosexuals, socialists, and Communists. However, Chavez and the Iranian governments signed several cooperation agreements.
The Islamic Revolution and Venezuela
Just between 1988 and 1989 more than 2,000 leftist politicians were executed by the Iranian regime. In post-revolutionary Iran, adulterers can be sentenced to stoning and homosexuals can be hanged. In spite of being a religious regime that represses the dissidents, even of left, the government of Iran has important ties with socialist regimes throughout Latin America.
Beginning in 2005, the Chavista government decided to pursue agreements of military and economic cooperation with countries like Iran and Syria. Hugo Chavez was especially close to the Iranian regime; he visited Tehran 9 times, while Ahmadinejad visited Caracas six times. In addition, the Chávez government signed trade, agricultural, educational and security agreements with the Persian state.
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Cars and Arepas
By 2011 both governments had signed at least 270 agreements. In addition to these agreements, the Persian country assisted Venezuela with defense issues, while Chavez gave the Iranian regime the leadership of several joint ventures between Iran and Venezuela in different economic fields.
Despite the fact that the Iran is not known as one of the world’s great car producers, Chavez and Ahmadinejad have created a joint venture to produce automobiles: Venirán. Venirán’s results have been poor. As of 2012 the Persian-Venezuelan company had produced fewer cars than they planned. Sales have been poor and the company has generated losses; however it is still in operation.
The Venezuelan socialist regime has also teamed up with the Iranian regime on other ventures in which the Persian country does not have extensive expertise. One such example is Venalcasa. This state-owned company is in charge of producing precooked corn flour, raw material for one of the fundamental elements of Venezuelan gastronomy: the arepa. The productivity of Venalcasa has declined tremendously in recent years, despite the high demand for corn flour among Venezuelans.
In addition to cars and corn flour, the Iranian regime has obtained other business in Venezuela thanks to the Chavez. The Chávez regime gave gold mines concessions in the state of Bolivar to Iran, as well as rights to rich oil reserves in the Orinoco region in the state of Anzoátegui.
In 2007, when former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ordered a national plan for the construction of two million homes, the Venezuelan government wanted to follow suit; Chávez ended up hiring the Iranian government to build 50,000 homes.
Banks and economic sanctions
The close relationship between the two nations facilitated the opening of a Persian bank called the International Development Bank. According to the United States authorities, Iran’s purpose in creating this bank was to circumvent the international sanctions faced at the time by the Iranian regime. In response to the creation of this bank, the US Treasury sanctioned its activities. Venezuelans, then, paid the symbolic price of their government’s decision to support an aggressive regime, rife with illicit activities.
The relationship between Iran and Venezuela goes beyond shared financial and economic interests. The Persian regime assists Venezuela in military matters. Most of the military agreements between the two countries are kept secret. However, US sources say that CAVIM (Venezuelan Joint Stock Company of Military Industries) sold war material to Iran. Therefore, the State Department decided to sanction the Venezuelan company.
Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales repeatedly defended the aggressive foreign policy of the former Iranian president Ahmadinejad. The Venezuelan regime supported the Iranian nuclear program and Iran’s close ally in Syria, Bashar Al-Assad. Iran’s new moderate President Rouhani, however, has not maintained as close ties with Venezuela as his predecessor.
The Iranians, descendants of the Persians, have been leading actors in the history of humanity. At present, Iran has important artists, scientists, and entrepreneurs. The Iranians are unfortunately victims of Iran’s theocratic and repressive regime. Allowing the Iranians attacked by the regime to live a new life in Latin America could enrich the South America continent. However, that is not what Hugo Chávez promoted. On the contrary, the Bolivarian leader supported an aggressive, radical, and repressive government.
Bolivarian governments achieve their goal of challenging the United States. Meanwhile, Venezuelan citizens pay a heavy price for the “anti-imperialist” whims of Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro, who fail to see the hypocrisy in supporting a radical, repressive, and theocratic government in Iran. The real losers are the Venezuelan and Iranian people, who have governments that ignore their rights and freedoms.