Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro arrived in Iran on Friday as part of a wider tour also set to take in Algeria and Turkey. The two governments signed a 20-year “strategic cooperation pact” covering the energy and finance sectors, as well as some “defense projects”.
Both Maduro and Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi described the accord as the beginning of an "indestructible union" against the United States, which has sanctioned both of them. Relations between Tehran and Caracas have been very close since the time of the late President Hugo Chavez, and have always been grounded in mutual opposition to the United States.
"We have great cooperation fronts between Iran and Venezuela," Maduro said at a press conference with Raisi that was broadcast on Venezuelan state TV. "At the energy level, oil, gas, refineries, petrochemicals, at the financial level, at the defence level.”
For his part, Raisi emphasised that cooperation between the two government was a "strategic" move against "imperialism”. Venezuela, he said, had shown "perfect resistance to the sanctions and threats of imperialism”, "sanctions and threats".
Like the Iran-China deal before it, politicians did not go into the details of the agreement and they have yet to be published anywhere. Maduro underlined the cooperation to "consolidate sovereignty and food security" but failed to explain how closer relations with Iran would rescue Venezuela from the humanitarian crisis it currently faces. Maduro also confirmed that direct flights between Caracas and Tehran would start on July 18, an announcement that has been made in the past without coming into effect.
Another critical point of Maduro's tour of Iran included the delivery to Venezuela of an Iranian oil tanker built by the industrial shipping company SADRA, which has a cargo capacity of between 80,000 and 125,000 tons. This delivery is not accidental and is part of a long strategic association between both US-sanctioned countries to endure them via mutual trade. The tanker that arrived over the weekend is the second of its kind Iran has provided to Venezuela in recent years. The Iranian authorities also confirmed the construction of two more to be delivered to Caracas soon.
How Maduro's Iran Tour is Being Touted to Venezuelans
The choice of date for Maduro's visit to the Islamic Republic was symbolic too.. On the same weekend, but in Los Angeles, United States, the XI edition of the Summit of the Americas took place. Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua were excluded from participating because of their governments’ record of human rights violations. Knowing this would attract media attention, Maduro deployed a two-pronged strategy, scheduling his visit to Iran for the same weekend and also convincing his friend and president of Argentina, Alberto Fernández, to speak for him at the Summit.
Fernández delivered a harsh speech on the countries’ exclusion. “We definitely would have wanted another Summit of the Americas," he said in his presentation at the multilateral forum, which was created by Washington in 1994. "Being a host country does not grant the ability to impose a right of admission. From Iran, Maduro thanked Fernández for a speech he described as “brave”, from a man he described as a "partner in the struggle".
Telesur is a terrestrial and satellite television network intended for all of Latin America, based in Caracas and sponsored mainly by the governments of Venezuela and Cuba. It ran special coverage following Maduro step by step through Iran. The visit was described as marking “a new course of cooperation" to "combat the United States and imperialist attacks." In a segment about Maduro having also met with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Telesur’s correspondents said Khamenei had highlighted "the incredible capacity of the Venezuelan and Iranian peoples to resist the illegal sanctions of the White House".
The Colombia-based news website NTN24.com took a more objective approach, limiting itself to highlighting the signing of the 20-year deal and emphasizing that no details had been forthcoming. But HispanTV, the Spanish-language arm of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, also ran a special program, describing the meeting as “historic” and foregrounding a tweet from the Venezuelan president: "I had a meeting full of spirituality and wisdom with the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. I appreciate his words, which strengthen my soul and give us the necessary strength to continue walking the path of the world of peace and brotherhood that we want to consolidate."
HispanTV's coverage lasted more than an hour, with different analysts, all staunch proponents of the Maduro and Raisi administrations, explained the "benefits" of the Iran-Venezuela relationship to viewers. In a tweet on Friday Maduro thanked the Iranian headquarters of HispanTV for this slavish coverage and interview of him: “I reiterate my admiration for its director, Ali Ejarehdar and the entire team that plays a fundamental role in defending the truth of the world's people. I am very happy with this interview!"
None of the state TV coverage included any critical analysis, and their journalists did not ask questions.