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Why The Latin American Far Left Can't Stop Cozying Up To Iran's Regime

Among the Islamic Republic of Iran's very few diplomatic friends are too many from Latin America's left, who are always happy to milk their cash-rich allies for all they are worth.

Image of Bolivia's ambassador in Tehran, Romina Pérez Ramos.

Bolivia's ambassador in Tehran, Romina Pérez Ramos.

Bolivia's embassy in Tehran/Facebook
Bahram Farrokhi


The Latin American Left has an incurable anti-Yankee fever. It is a sickness seen in the baffling support given by the socialist regimes of Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela or Bolivia to the Islamic Republic of Iran, which to many exemplifies clerical fascism. And all for a single, crass reason: together they hate the United States.

The Islamic Republic has so many of the traits the Left used to hate and fight in the 20th century: a religious (Islamic) vocation, medieval obscurantism, misogyny... Its kleptocratic economy has turned bog-standard class divisions into chasmic inequalities reminiscent of colonial times.

This support is, of course, cynical and in line with the mandates of realpolitik. The regional master in this regard is communist Cuba, which has peddled its anti-imperialist discourse for 60 years, even as it awaits another chance at détente with its ever wealthy neighbor.

I reflected on this on the back of recent remarks by Bolivia's ambassador in Tehran, the 64-year-old Romina Pérez Ramos. She must be the busiest diplomat in Tehran right now, and not a day goes by without her going, appearing or speaking somewhere, with all the publicity she can expect from the regime's media.

Ignoring women's rights

A sociologist by training, she was a communist in her youth and fled for a while to the Soviet Union. Once she returned, her research work and activism revolved around miners initially, then the condition of women and native communities. In a conservative country, the Left saw these far-from-privileged sectors as its natural constituents and support base.

In time, her views and activities led her to join the socialist and indigenist MAS movement of the former president, Evo Morales. Late in his last presidency, in 2019, Pérez Ramos was appointed Bolivia's ambassador in Iran. The two countries' ties had flourished under Morales, again in part for their shared hostility to the United States.

The embassy was briefly shut in 2020, to save money, when Morales was replaced with a conservative administration, but reopened after the Left regained power that year. Last October, Pérez Ramos, this former defender of the rights of workers and women in her own country, denounced Iran's mass protests and the Woman, Life, Freedom movement as a Zionist and "British" plot.

Bolivia, she said, was a "brother country to Iran and we have anti-imperialist ideas"

She was speaking at a meeting with the mayor of Tabriz in north-western Iran. Bolivia, she said, was a "brother country to Iran and we have anti-imperialist ideas," adding she was confident Iran's problems would be solved "with the knowledge and intelligence of its dear leader." Her comments, so clearly dismissive of women fighting for their rights, caused a furore among government opponents in Bolivia and especially defenders of women's rights, and she later said they had been misunderstood or distorted.

Image of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (R) welcoming Bolivian President Evo Morales in Tehran, capital of Iran, in 2010.

Oct. 26, 2010: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad welcomes Bolivian President Evo Morales in Tehran, capital of Iran.

Ahmad Halabisaz/Xinhua/ZUMA

Crony ties

You wonder if the envoy's prominence these days is for Bolivia's increasing importance as a chief repository of lithium. As a mineral needed for batteries and solar panels, it is in many ways the oil of the future. Or, as some Iranians suspect, are regime hands in both states forging "crony ties," like those likely developed with Venezuela?

Pérez often appears at state-sponsored events alongside the envoys of Venezuela and Nicaragua, but also in shrines and religious premises. Local media will show her leaning against a tomb, meditatively, like a Shia Muslim, which presumably she is not. She has claimed to have felt, after visiting a shrine in Qom in central Iran, the curative effects of soil taken from Kerbala (in Iraq), where the Prophet Muhammad's grandson Hussein was killed. Whatever happened to communist anti-clericalism?

She might even have called the book "Islam in Action"

The envoys of Bolivia, Venezuela and Nicaragua were recently promoting the Spanish edition of the Iranian supreme leader's autobiography, entitled Cell Number 14. Pérez Ramos praised Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as a "real fighter," speaking at the book's presentation at a Tehran book fair on May 15, saying she might even have called the book "Islam in Action," as this was essentially its "inspiring" message.

Such declarations might be dismissed as mere flattery, or preposterous, if they weren't made against a backdrop of state violence and murders.

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Not Your Grandma's Nonna: How Older Women In Italy Are Reclaiming Their Age

Women in Italy are living longer than ever. But severe economic and social inequality and loneliness mean that they urgently need a new model for community living – one that replaces the "one person, one house, one caregiver" narrative we have grown accustomed to.

Not Your Grandma's Nonna: How Older Women In Italy Are Reclaiming Their Age

Italy is home to many elderly people and few young ones.

Barbara Leda Kenny

ROMENina Ercolani is the oldest person in Italy. She is 112 years old. According to newspaper interviews, she enjoys eating sweets and yogurt. Mrs. Nina is not alone: over the past three years, there has been an exponential growth in the number of centenarians in Italy. With over 20,000 people who've surpassed the age of 100, Italy is in fact the country with the highest number of centenarians in Europe.

Life expectancy at the national level is already high. Experts say it can be even higher for those who cultivate their own gardens, live away from major sources of pollution, and preferably in small towns near the sea. Years of sunsets and tomatoes with a view of the sea – it used to be a romantic fantasy but is now becoming increasingly plausible.

Centenarians occupy the forefront of a transformation taking place in a country where living a long life means being among the oldest of the old. Italy is the second oldest country in the world, and it ranks first in the number of people over eighty. In simple terms, this means that Italy is home to many elderly people and few young ones: those over 65 make up almost one in four, while children (under 14) account for just over one in 10. The elderly population will continue to grow in the coming years, as the baby boomer generation, born between 1961 and 1976, is the country's largest age group.

But there is one important data set to consider when discussing our demographics: in general, women make up a slight majority of the population, but from the age of sixty onwards, the gap progressively widens. Every single Italian over 110 years old is a woman.

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