There is a fairly large Islamic community in South America and, unfortunately, some of its members are involved in terrorism. Some belong to Hizbullah, while others are directly subordinate to Iran.
(Translated from Russian)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman: As of today, two trends are dominant in South America. The first is an extremist trend, which highly resembles the platform of Iran. I’m talking about Hugo Chaves in Venezuela, Evo Morales in Bolivia, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua. It may be possible that Ecuador can be also added to the list. This is an axis. These are apparently left-wing leaders, who are now joining their efforts with Islamic groups.
Four other states – Peru, Colombia, Chile, and Panama are on the opposite side, with two of them on the frontline. These are Colombia and Peru. While I was visiting Bogota, Hugo Chaves put on hold diplomatic relations with Colombia.
In addition, currently there is a fairly large Islamic community in South America and, unfortunately, some of its members are involved in terrorism. Some of them belong to Hizbullah, while others are directly subordinate to Iran.
Anyway, these western-minded states do realize the implications of both Islamic terrorism and left extremist terrorism. With regard to Colombia, besides the threat from Chaves, there is a local left extremist underground called FARC, which is also pretty much assisted by Venezuela.
The two positive states, which are our natural partners, are certainly Colombia and Peru.
Host: So you are saying that Colombia and Peru are most friendly to Israel.
FM Liberman: We have a lot of common interests. Historically, these are undoubtedly very friendly states. I’d like to remind you that Peru was on our side in 1947, when the UN resolution [to partition the Palestinian Mandate] was made, and in 1948, [at the voting on Israel’s acceptance as a member of the UN]. They have always supported us, and we have traditionally good relations.
Host: With regard to Brazil, Chile, Argentina, and Panama, which of them would you distinguish from the others?
FM Liberman: It’s Brazil. Brazil is one of the most interesting countries in the world. With a population of almost 200 million, it’s among the fastest growing economies in the world. Brazil is a member of BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China), which is an association of the four largest and fastest growing states in the world. It has a very interesting leader, President Lula, who is now finishing his second term as President. His approval rating after seven years in power is 65-70%. He is popular both in Brazil and abroad. President Lula is a remarkable leader in global policy.
Host: Mr. Liberman, how aggressive and unpleasant have been the signs of protest against your visit and against Israel as a whole?
FM Liberman: There were no protests anywhere except for Argentina. Actually, in Argentina this was a well-paid show. Professional protesters were hired for good money. I suspect that it was sponsored by Venezuela. My meetings in Argentina have been positive. I had a very good meeting with the local Jewish community. This is the largest Jewish community in South America and the second largest community in America, after the USA. It numbers 260,000 Jews.
Host: That’s a lot. If I’m not mistaken, at your meeting with the Colombian Minister of Foreign Affairs, you offered our help and support in their fight against global drug traffic and terrorism. Exactly what kind of help do you mean, particularly with regard to drug trafficking?
FM Liberman: First, we have to realize that drug trafficking always works hand-in-hand with terrorism. Drug trafficking is the main source of funding for terrorism. While the Taliban in Afghanistan are funded by opium, in Colombia they are sponsored by cocaine. This is a global trend. Even Hizbullah is actively involved in growing and selling drugs – in the Bek’aa valley, in Lebanon, and in South America. Therefore, we must now deal with these issues together. Israel has vast experience in fighting terrorism and drug dealers. We have the same problem – drugs from Lebanon are most often trafficked to Israel under the control of Hizbullah. We have many common interests, which will certainly be negotiated further.
Host: Mr. Liberman, now the last and probably the most important question. How capable are the South America countries of getting involved in the Iran problem?
FM Liberman: Today, Iran is the major political partner of Hugo Chaves of Venezuela, and therefore we are eager to establish close relations with the states bordering Venezuela. Besides, we have to realize that Colombia has 48 million people and encompasses 1,200,000 square kilometers. It has a fast growing economy, and trade, political and military relations with it look very promising. This also applies to Peru. Therefore, this is not a one-time visit. In mid-August, [Minister of National Infrastructures] Uzi Landau is going to South America. President Shimon Peres will visit in November.