Spanish – Although the official figures are not yet known, the interim president of Bolivia, Jeanine Añez, congratulated Luis Arce for supposedly winning the elections; a situation that, if true, opens the doors for the MAS (Movement Towards Socialism) government to reach new agreements disguised as legitimacy with Iran, but which, eventually allowed more clandestine operations.
An exit poll showed the MAS of Evo Morales as the winner in the first round. At the same time, the UN Security Council gave Iran the green light to buy and sell arms with the end of the embargo.
Joseph Humire, a specialist in global security and executive director of the Center for a Free and Secure Society, told the PanAm Post that a MAS victory in the Bolivian presidency could intensify Iran’s illicit activities in that country.
“It is no longer just about clandestine activities. With a legitimate victory for MAS and an Iran with greater legitimacy because it does not have an arms embargo, it is now about greater open cooperation between the two countries,” he said.
Humire explained that Bolivia has been the epicenter of clandestine routes for both drug trafficking and minerals that serve as raw material for the manufacture of weapons. When Arce takes power, Iran will be able to camouflage the purchase and sale of arms to continue with its illicit business.
“With the lifting of the embargo, Iran wants to grow its market with Venezuela. It wants to legitimize its trade. That is why it sends gasoline and food to Venezuela, to say that they are partners and then to trade arms. This strategy can also be replicated in Bolivia with the MAS,” he said.
Pressure on the United States
The security specialist emphasized that Iran’s move becomes a strategy of pressure against the United States: If Iran sends these weapons, what will the United States do?
Until now, the Persian regime and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard have used the same clandestine drug trafficking routes to mobilize minerals used in the manufacture of war weapons, and Bolivia had become the epicenter.
“That arms embargo began in 2007. At that time, Iran used Latin America as a network to acquire technology in violation of the sanctions. During all this time, there were military agreements with Venezuela. Iran was using that country as a platform to operate in other parts of the region,” the specialist adds.
“With Evo Morales, they also made the same agreement to build companies and businesses specialized in military and scientific technology while having an undercover project with revolutionary guards,” he said. “In all this time, we do not know how much material Iran has acquired from Latin America,” Humire added.
The specialist recalled that in 2012, a shipment was discovered in the basement of a building of the Venezuelan Defense Attaché in Bolivia. It consisted of garbage bags containing tantalum, a mineral that is also used in military weapons.
Golden opportunity for international crime
“Iran will export and sell arms,” celebrated the Iranian Defense Minister, General Amir Hatami, after the end of the arms embargo.
According to Humire, Iran will seek to legitimize its arms business while maintaining its illicit activities. He explained that for more than 35 years, Iran has built up the potential for a military presence in the region. In the last 15 years, Chávez and Maduro have given them that capacity.
“Iran has built a dual-use infrastructure. It builds companies as a façade, which at first sight, are legitimate but are hiding other uses,” he says.
“For many people who are observing Iranian activities in Venezuela, this is “new.” But for people who are informed about the issue, Iran has had a covert presence for a long time. The presence of the Revolutionary Guard and the Iranian military dates back to 2006, but over time, it has been expanding,” he explained.
“This is within the chessboard. The U.S. is going to invoke Resolution 2231 to get the UN Security Council to implement sanctions on Iran. And the response [from Iran] and its allies in the UN will be to say that they do not recognize these sanctions because they have met all the requirements of the nuclear agreement and will now sell weapons to whomever they want,” he explained.
“For me, the shipment of fuel to Venezuela was a test before the shipment of weapons, and the United States showed that there are ways to neutralize such shipments. The U.S. has to prepare for this moment. The White House has to have clear scenarios and work a narrative that explains Iran’s intentions,” he said.