The Chilean Election Gives Iran a New Foothold in South America

Dec. 29 2021

The Islamic Republic has long been involved in Latin America, and its presence there made possible its current good relations with Venezuela, as well as the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. With the election last week of the far-left politician Gabriel Boric to Chile’s presidency, Iranian influence can be expected to expand. Emanuele Ottolenghi writes:

President Boric’s progressive domestic agenda will have to contend with his lack of a parliamentary majority. There will be no similar constraints on foreign policy, where his leftist instincts, backed by a strong anti-Israel domestic constituency, will likely put him in sync with Iranian influence operations in Latin America.

Iran has two cultural centers in Chile. The one in the capital, Santiago, is run by a Hizballah cleric . . . with family ties to sanctioned Hizballah financiers and strong personal connections to Hizballah’s West Africa fundraising and recruitment operations.

Hizballah’s illicit finance networks also operate in Chile, facilitating drug trafficking and money-laundering operations. Despite a well-documented presence there for nearly two decades—including U.S. Treasury sanctions against Chile-based, Hizballah-run companies—the South American country has until now refrained from designating Hizballah a terrorist organization. There was hope this could change, after Argentina, Paraguay, Guatemala, Honduras, and Colombia did so between July 2019 and January 2020. With Boric in power, this is now unlikely to happen.

Owning and championing Palestinians’ most radical demands is at the core of Iran’s revolutionary agenda and the Trojan horse it has often used to gain supporters across Latin America. Chile has always offered a propitious terrain, given its large Palestinian diaspora. And now, the rise to power of a millennial politician wedded to these same radical anti-Israel views offers Iran a great opportunity.

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Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Latin America

Will Costco Go to Israel?

Social-media users have mocked this week new Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich for a poorly translated letter. But far more interesting than the finance minister’s use of Google Translate (or some such technology) is what the letter reveals about the Jewish state. In it, Smotrich asks none other than Costco to consider opening stores in Israel.

Why?

Israel, reports Sharon Wrobel, has one of the highest costs of living of any country in the 38-member Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

This

has been generally attributed to a lack of competition among local importers and manufacturers. The top three local supermarket chains account for over half of the food retail market, limiting competition and putting upward pressure on prices. Meanwhile, import tariffs, value-added tax costs and kosher restrictions have been keeping out international retail chains.

Is the move likely to happen?

“We do see a recent trend of international retailers entering the Israeli market as some barriers to food imports from abroad have been eased,” Chen Herzog, chief economist at BDO Israel accounting firm, told The Times of Israel. “The purchasing power and technology used by big global retailers for logistics and in the area of online sales where Israel has been lagging behind could lead to a potential shift in the market and more competitive prices.”

Still, the same economist noted that in Israel “the cost of real estate and other costs such as the VAT on fruit and vegetables means that big retailers such as Costco may not be able to offer the same competitive prices than in other places.”

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Costco, Israel & Zionism