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Ahmadinejad Embarks On Key South American Diplomacy Trip

Luis Inácio Lula da Silva and MahmoudAhmadinejad in Brasilia in Brasilia Monday. Via BBC.

In an effort to expand Iranian influence and markets, President Ahmadinejad visited Sao Paulo, Brazil. He met with Brazilian President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva, whocriticized the world community for isolating Iran. Lula hasthrown his weight behind Iran’s efforts to develop a nuclear program aimed at peaceful purposes in September’s UN gathering in New York. The Ahmadinejadvisit, along with Lula’s defense of leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his claim that President Obama has ignored Latin America, has hurt Obama’s plan to use Lula as a proxy in Latin America policy.

However, in Brasilia, may protests took place, with Jose Serra, Lula’s most likely opponent, arguing that theAhmadinejad visit goes contrary to what “[Brazil] stands for in the world.” In addition to the political pressures on President Lula, an unlikely coalition of business leaders and human rights activitists have assembled to oppose the visit for a variety of reasons. Most argue that President Ahmadinejad should not be embraced because of his human rights record, while others point to the fact that Brazil does not need Iranian oil.

Today in La Paz, President Ahmadinejad met with Bolivian President Evo Morales, a figure who, likeAhmadinejad, is fiercely opposed to U.S. foreign policy. President Ahmadinejad plans to meet with President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela later in the week, before traveling to Senegal and Gambia to complete the five-day trip.

For video of the protests, click here YouTube.


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