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Bolivia: Visit by Iranian President to La Paz

Editor's note: This is a cross-regional post looking at reactions from Bolivian and Iranian bloggers, in which the Global Voices Online Persian editor Hamid Tehrani contributed the content relating to the reaction from the Iranian blogosphere.

The Bolivian government welcomed the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for a brief visit to La Paz, where he signed several agreements of assistance with his host President Evo Morales of Bolivia. The unlikely alliance surprised many Bolivians since in the past few relations were made with the Middle Eastern country. The deals were for investments in the energy and agricultural sectors, although the exact details were still to be determined. Morales indicated that the deals had nothing to do with anything nuclear-related, which may have been a request to resist any connections with Iran on that level and which was fresh off of his “don't include me in the axis of evil,” as he said on the Daily Show comedy program.

Bolivians were eager to see what the fuss was all about. The Iranian president arrived to the airport in El Alto, and blogger Mario Duran of Palabras Libres [ES] was on hand to record the events, but not without some hassles from concerned security.

Con camara digital me encuentro en la av. Heroes del Kilometro siete que conecta el aeropuerto internacional de El Alto, con la ciudad de La Paz, empiezo a tomar fotos… primero del derrame de pegamento a la altura de la Prefectura, voy caminando, una solitaria bandera boliviana flamea al viento. Llego a la curva que esta a la salida del aeropuerto, veo gente reunida con carteles, la multicolor whipala que identifica a los pueblos indigenas, la tricolor boliviana y una bandera irani, las pancartas saludan al presidente de Iran Mahmud Ahmadinejad , empiezo a tomar fotos,escucho gritos: -¿ese que esta tomando fotos quien es?, del dicho al hecho se acerca un individuo quien con una mano me toma de la solapa de la campera de cuero con la otra va a la camara digital.- ¿Que te pasa, quien te crees? pregunto. Me dice que tienes que identificarte, tu credencial?

With a digital camera I am standing in the Avenue of the Heroes at Kilometer 7 that connects the international airport of El Alto with the city of La Paz. I begin to take photos … first of the glue spill near the Prefecture, I begin to walk and see a lone Bolivian flag waving in the wind. I turn the corner that is near the exit of the airport and I see people will signs, as well as the multi-color whipala flag that identifies indigenous peoples, the tri-color Bolivian flag and an Iranian flag. The handmade signs greet the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. I begin to take photos and I hear yells – “who is the guy taking photos?” Soon an individual approaches me and with one hand grabs my leather jacket and with the other my digital camera, “What's the matter with you? Who do you think you are?” he asked. I tells me that I must show my credentials and identify myself.

Soon after showing him that he writes for a blog “La Constituyente,” the security personnel allows him to carry on and the slideshow presentation appears on the blog. This type of sensitivity carried on before, during and after the visit, as Bolivian bloggers tried to analyze the real reason for the visit and the signed agreements. Some hope that it is not simply as a way to antagonize the United States. Voz Boliviana [ES] sees another ally behind the visit, and asks, “Why Iran?”

En realidad (y no es un secreto) el acercamiento con Irán responde a una alineación política y diplomática encabezada por Venezuela, que ha demostrado con este ejemplo hasta donde puede influenciar al gobierno nacional. Nuestro presidente simplemente acata los lineamientos diplomaticos foráneos y se presta al juego de provocación a los Estados Unidos.

In reality (and it is not a secret) the approachment with Iran is due to a political and diplomatic alignment headed by Venezuela, that has demonstrated with this example to what point it can influence the national governemnt. Our president simply follows the foreign diplomatic alignments and it becomes part of the game of provoking the United States.

Some others are even more suspicious and see Bolivia becoming a part of the global conflict with Iran and its supposed nucelar ambitions. Willy Andres writes [ES]:

Espero que no cueste tan caro todo este supuesto acuerdo con Irán. He recibido unos comentarios sobre todo esto: “para
impulsar todo lo relacionado con lo nuclear, se requieren el uranio (que tiene Bolivia) y lo se conoce como “agua pesada” (Bolivia es una reserva de este producto), estos dos elementos son parte importante para impulsar todo lo relacionado con lo nuclear”.

I hope that this supposed agreement with Iran does not affect us too much. I have received comments about this agreement “to impulse all that it is related to the nuclear, uranium (something that Bolivia has) is required and “heavy water,” as it is known. (Bolivia has a reserve of this product) and these two elements are very important to impulse everything related to the nuclear.”

Many Bolivians were unfamiliar with the culture of Iran, and were surprised with the request made by the Iranian delegation. Miguel Buitrago of MABB writes:

The opposition, of course, is skeptical. They ask what is Bolivian gaining by establishing, in so public a manner, diplomatic relations with a country such as Iran. Some even highlight the contradictions when Ahmadinejad praises Bolivian and Iranian women and at the same time officially asks not to allow any women to any reception at his hotel or any ceremony where Iranian officials are present.

However, Iranians also weighed in on the new agreeements signed by the two countries.

Ayandeh MA ( means our future) says that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iranian President, after scandal in Columbia University, took a trip to Bolivia. Nobody understands the reasons for this trip [FA]. The blogger adds that Bolivian opposition warned the Bolivian government not to invite Ahmadinejad because the Iranian government is unstable and Ahmadinejad’s presence can hurt Bolivian interests. Ayandeh Ma adds that Ahmadinejad promised one billon dollars to Bolivian government. The blogger explains that recently Iranian government gives a lot of advantages to countries such as Venezuela and China to reduce the impact of United Nations sanctions against its nuclear program.

Minyator also writes that the Bolivian opposition considered that Ahmadinejad’s presence in their country will hurt their interests. The blogger mentions that in Iran, such news is filtered [FA].

Finally, Kaghzpareh (means piece of paper) writes that Ahmadinejad , after his trip to Bolivia said that all newspapers in that country are controlled by opposition! And he was surprised that how the masses welcomed him. The blogger adds that Ahmadinejad talked about a little poor girl who polished shoes in the street to win her daily bread. The blogger says it is better Ahmadinejad goes to downtown Tehran or provinces to see many similar poor Iranian children [FA].

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