Anti-narcotics operatives from Bolivia will travel to Iran for training, an Iranian envoy said during a trip to La Paz, increasing Iran’s stake in counter-narcotics efforts in the region.
Ali Asghar Khaji, deputy foreign minister for Europe and Latin America, claimed Iran was “the biggest and most important country putting up the strongest fight against drug traffickers,” and would share “much knowledge” with Bolivia.
According to La Razon, Iran has provided $1.2 billion in aid to Bolivia since 2007, although the newspaper notes that Asghar Khaji refused to confirm that figure during his visit.
InSight Crime Analysis
Bolivia and Iran signed a bilateral agreement to strengthen anti-drug trafficking capacities in the Andean nation during a visit by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June. As part of the agreement, Iran pledged to train 10 Bolivian anti-narcotics officers and fund communication equipment.
Though generally ostracised by the international community, Iran works closely with other countries on anti-narcotics. It has the world’s highest seizures rates for opium and heroin and has been highly praised by the UN for its anti-narcotics efforts. Thus, they appear well placed to offer advice to their Bolivian counterparts.
Bolivia has been seeking new allies to support its anti-drug efforts since clashing with the United States in 2008, when President Evo Morales expelled Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) representatives from the country after accusing them of inciting his opposition. Diplomatic relations were only restored last year.
Iran, meanwhile, has been steadily building its influence in Latin America, particularly with Venezuela and other governments such as Ecuador and Nicaragua. President Ahmadinejad has visited Bolivia three times since 2007.
The scale of the threat that Iran’s Latin American friendships could pose has been the subject of much debate. A US Congressional Committee report last month claimed Iran could use its relationship with Venezuela to fund “covert terrorist activities”, and it has been claimed, with scant evidence, that Iran is funding Hezbollah activities in the region.
US Vice-President Joe Biden dismissed the supposed threat last March however, telling CNN, “Iran will not be able to pose a hemispheric threat to the US.”