By Marcela Canavarro, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was invited by Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to visit last week, but just two days before he was due to arrive, announced that he would not come.
Although it seems to be embarrassing for diplomatic relations, some political analysts considered it a last minute rescue for “Itamaraty” – Brazil’s Ministério das Relações Exteriores (Ministry of External Relations).
Celso Amorim, the Brazilian Minister of External Relations, intended to enlarge Brazil-Iran commercial relations and reaffirm Brazilian autonomy from the United States of America. Accordingly to Amorim, Brazil needs a strategy to get closer to the Arab world and reinforce relations with it.
“We are interested in cooperating with Iran because we don’t [have] dialogue only [with] countries with whom we agree”, he said.
Itamaraty staff didn’t all have the same opinion though, and some traditional diplomats criticized Amorim’s decision to invite the government of Iran, known worldwide for human rights violations – a historical topic on Brazilian international relations.
Meanwhile on the streets, opponents to Ahmadinejad’s visit organized protests of hundreds of people in Rio and Sao Paulo.
Iran says they have the right to keep active relations with Latin America, after Secretary of State of the United States Hillary Clinton declared her worries about the influence of Tehran within the continent.
“We have active relations with Latin American countries in culture, economy and politics”, affirmed to AFP Iranian Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Hasan Ghashghavi.
Despite President Ahmadinejad’s absence, the Iranian businessmen that arrived in Brazil a few days before, continued promoting an increase commercial relations with Brazil. At least 100 Iranian representatives working to negotiate financing opportunities with Brazil, supported by Ahmadinejad, kept their agenda with no changes.
“The absence of the Iranian president hasn’t changed anything. There are a lot of commercial interests by both sides and it’s necessary to separate commercial-economic topic to other themes of the political agenda”, Rodrigo de Azeredo Santos, chief of Commercial Promotion Programs of Itamaraty stated to local newspaper ‘O Estado de São Paulo’.
The government of Israel expressed its satisfaction with the cancellation of Ahmadinejad’s visit to Brazil. The country indicated that Lula’s visit to Israel could be denied in a short term if the Iranian president visited Brazil. In April, Ahmadinejad said, at a United Nations conference in Geneva, that Holocaust never happened and is just an excuse for Israeli prejudiced policies.
Bilateral commerce between Brazil and Iran reached US$1.148 Billion in 2008, with a US$1.118 Billion positive balance for Brazil, but the Ministry intends to regain past levels of US$2 Billion. Iran has been growing over 5.5% in the last 20 years and is considered an important entrance for Middle East and Central Asia commerce.
Correction: May 15th, 2009
This article was first published on May 13th and referred to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, however the more accurate translation is the Ministry of External Relations.