Bolsonaro on Iranian Ships Stuck in Brazil: ‘We Are Aligned’ with U.S. Policy

( Breitbart )

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro told reporters Sunday that he is “aligned to the policies” of the United States on Iran and that his government had not discussed its decision not to sell fuel to two Iranian tankers stuck in the country without discussing it with Washington.

The two ships, the Bavand and Termeh, are reportedly filled with tons of Brazilian corn that Iran had agreed to buy. Brazilian authorities handed the corn over, as it is not under any international sanctions, but refused to sell the ships the petroleum fuel necessary for them to make their way back to Iran to ensure it would not violate U.S. sanctions on the Iranian oil industry.

On Sunday, reporters asked Bolsonaro if he had ordered Petrobras, the country’s state-run oil industry, not to sell the ship’s fuel in response to a request from U.S. President Donald Trump. In responding to whether he had spoken to Trump directly, Bolsonaro replied, “on that specific issue, no.”

“But there are certain things where it isn’t necessary to converse,” the president added. “We are aligned to their policy, so we know what we have to do.”

Bolsonaro added that his administration had warned Brazilian oil companies that they may fall under U.S. sanctions if they do business with Iran.

Bolsonaro made improving bilateral ties to the United States a priority of his presidential campaign last year. As president, he has worked to collaborate with the Trump administration. The two presidents met most recently last month in Japan for the G-20 summit, where Bolsonaro said, “I support Trump. I support the United States. I support your upcoming reelection.”

Reports last week revealing that the Iranian cargo ships were out of commission due to lack of fuel indicated that the ships are collectively carrying 116,000 tons of corn. One possible solution for Iran in the current situation is to send a third ship to Brazil carrying fuel for the two others, a costly and time-consuming enterprise.

Under the socialist administrations that preceded Bolsonaro, Brazil expanded its ties to Iran, which has long maintained friendly relations with Latin America’s most repressive regimes. Iran relies on Brazil for much of its food purchases, a fact that has triggered some concern in Brazil that abiding by the U.S. sanctions may hurt the economy. According to Estadao, Brazil enjoys a tremendous trade surplus with Iran. The South American nation sold $1.3 billion in goods to Iran from January to June 2019, a 22 percent increase from the same timeframe last year, and bought a paltry $26 million. Brazil sells about one-fifth of its corn output to Iran.

While ties to Iran may boost the Brazilian economy, the Islamist regime poses a significant threat to the country’s national security through its alliances with destabilizing regimes in the region and the growing presence of its terrorist proxy, Hezbollah, in South America.

Geopolitical experts and local voices have been warning for years of Hezbollah’s rising profile in the Tri-Border Area, the inland region where Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina meet. In January, the Argentine news outlet Infobae quoted both local law enforcement professionals and terrorism experts who warned that Hezbollah’s profile in the region was rising, partly due to the group seeking alliances with Brazil’s top drug gangs, the Red Command (CV) and the First Capital Command (PCC).

The drug gangs control the trafficking of cocaine and other narcotics throughout the continent and for years engaged in extreme violence against each other. The gang wars triggered prison riots in Brazil’s deep Amazon region in which prisoners grilled rival gang members and ate them, beheaded each other, and orchestrated mass breaks. Following Bolsonaro’s election, CV and PCC leaders agreed to unite to cause chaos and ensure Bolsonaro’s removal from power in exchange for a more lenient president.

Outside of its alliances with violent gangs through Hezbollah, the Iranian regime is a formal ally of Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro, who gave an official described as “one of Hezbollah’s great bagmen,” Tareck El Aissami, control over the nation’s oil industry.

“Hezbollah enjoys a kind of impunity in Venezuela … They get Venezuelan documents and passports. And they can live and operate freely on the East side of the country,” Venezuelan opposition leader Julio Borges said in January.

Maduro’s regime, still in power in part thanks to support from Iran, has destabilized the Brazilian border by causing the largest refugee exodus in the history of the Western Hemisphere. In Brazilian towns like Roraima, where floods of Venezuelan refugees have alarmed locals, Brazilians have rioted, stoning and looting homeless Venezuelan refugees and threatening to kill them if they do not flee. Venezuelan children scavenging for food and digging through trash are a common sight in some Brazilian border areas.

“The relations between the two countries have been very good and close in recent years, and continue under the mandate of President Nicolas Maduro, ” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in February, stating both countries “face world imperialism and the Venezuelan people will win this fight.”

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