Over the past few years Iâ€™ve watched with interest as Latin America and the Middle East have become more and more connected. Most famously, perhaps, is the relationship between Venezuela’s Hugo ChÃ¡vez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran. These two heads of state would seemingly have little in common, but it appears that their shared distaste for the United States (and â€œthe Westâ€? more generally) Â is plenty for them to build on. Obviously understanding the power of provocative political theater, for a few years now the two nations have been connected by a Caracas-Tehran flight, which seems far more political than practical.
But these inter-continental connections donâ€™t stop with Venezuela and Iran. Over the past couple of months and seemingly out of nowhere, a wave of Latin American countries have begun to publicly recognize Palestine as a sovereign state: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Guyana, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela have all issued a statement in one form or another. Colombia stands out for its decision not to recognize a Palestinian state, perhaps to ensure that the sizable $465 in foreign assistance it is due to receive from the United States is not put in jeopardy.
Looking ahead, keep an eye on the third Summit of South American and Arab Countries, scheduled for February 12-16 in Lima, Peru. It is described as â€œa forum for policy coordination between countries in these two regions, and a mechanism for cooperation in the field of economy, culture, education, science and technology preservation of the environment, tourism and other topics relevant to the sustainable development of those countries and contribute to world peace.â€?
The lesson thatâ€™s clear in all of this, Iâ€™d suggest, is that Latin America cannot be minimized or ignored any longer on the world stage. Given the widespread protests throughout the Middle East over the past couple of weeks, it will be especially interesting to see what bearing these Middle Eastern-Latin American ties will have on the world once the the tear gas clouds have dissipated, the dust has settled, and perhaps, new governments have taken power.