Iran’s Persistent and Growing Influence in Latin America

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi delivers a campaign speech.

“Our common position with these three countries is opposition to the hegemonic and unilateral system,” Raisi said.

Iran’s influence in the Western Hemisphere is often underestimated. Recent events have underscored that Iran is trying to grow its regional influence through a patient campaign that seeks to expand relations in authoritarian states in Latin America: namely, in Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba. Additionally, observers saw some unexpected activity when Iranian warships made a port call in Brazil in March 2023,[i] and Iran engaged in a flurry of diplomatic activity to solidify its Western Hemisphere presence in June 2023. Iran first sent its Foreign Minister and now President, Ebrahim Raisi, whose entourage was comprised of a “large political, economic, and scientific delegation,” aimed at signing strategic agreements with Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba according to Infobae, an Argentine outlet covering South America. Raisi spoke of a desire for a more multipolar world and denounced sanctions regimes at all three stops. Iran signed 19 strategic agreements to cooperate in various domains, most notably the oil industry during the trip to Venezuela reported in another article in Infobae. This cooperation is important because of how both countries use their cooperative agreements to flout international sanctions on their governments. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega supported the right of Iran to pursue more nuclear weapons, according to Infobae. Iran’s engagement in the Western Hemisphere is often overshadowed by the efforts of China and Russia. However, Iran has close relationships with the region’s three dictatorships and seeks to build beyond those relationships by diversifying its regional partners.[ii] Authoritarian regimes under pressure from the international community continue to view Iran’s friendship as a critical lifeline for survival.


“El presidente de Irán llegó a Venezuela, primera parada de su gira por Latinoamérica con visitas a regímenes aliados (The president of Iran arrived in Venezuela, the first stop on his tour of Latin America with visits to allied regimes),” Infobae (Argentine outlet with excellent regional coverage), 12 June 2023.

“Our common position with these three countries is opposition to the hegemonic and unilateral system,” Raisi said…The Iranian president defined relations with Caracas, Havana and Managua as ‘strategic’ and affirmed that this visit will mean ‘a turning point’ in the deepening of their ties…“We have important cooperation in the fields of defense, energy, oil, gas, refineries and the petrochemical sector,” Maduro said…On the trip to Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, the Nicaraguan president, defended Iran’s right to acquire nuclear weapons.

“El régimen de Irán pretende consolidar su influencia en la región: su presidente visitará Venezuela, Nicaragua y Cuba (The Iranian regime intends to consolidate its influence in the region: its president will visit Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba),” Infobae (an Argentine outlet with excellent regional coverage), 7 June 2023.

The trip will strengthen relations with the countries that Tehran considers ‘friends’ in economic, political and scientific matters…This is Raisi’s first trip to Latin America since he took office in August 2021…Last year Tehran and Havana agreed to strengthen their cooperation in technology and food security, during the visit to the Persian country of the Cuban deputy prime minister, Ricardo Cabrisas.


[i] For more information and context on this incident, please see: David Biller, “Iranian Warships in Rio de Janeiro Stirring Concern Abroad,” Associated Press, 2 March  2023,

[ii] Iran’s attempts to broaden its engagement in Latin America have not been uniformly successful. See, for instance, the debacle that ensued when a plane full of suspected IRGC members landed and was seized in Argentina. See: Ryan Berg, “Venezuela’s Mystery Plane Shows Iran’s Strategic Penetration of Latin America,” OE Watch, 07-2022,

Image Information:

Image: Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi delivers a campaign speech.
Attribution: Wikimedia, CC-BY 4.0