Livni warns El Salvador against Iran

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Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.
Photo: AP

Israeli concern about Teheran’s inroads into Latin America emerged at a meeting Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni held with her visiting El Salvadoran counterpart on Tuesday, during which she warned that South America was fast becoming a platform for spreading Iranian ideology.

Iran is searching for openings, and countries it can penetrate, to compensate for the vulnerability created by the [economic] sanctions [against it],” Livni told Marisol Argueta de Barillas. “We are witness to the disturbing phenomenon of Iranian infiltration into South America, so much so that Latin America has become a convenient base for spreading Iranian political and economic ideology,” Livni said. “The strengthening of ties between South American guerrillas and the Iranian terrorism activists is plain to see.”

Livni said there was a need for the international community to cooperate to push-back against Iran’s international efforts.

Israeli diplomatic officials said Israel was watching with growing concern Iran’s developing ties with the leftist, anti-American bloc in Latin America made up of Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela. Iran recently opened new embassies in Bolivia and Nicaragua.

Israel is also concerned that Iranian terrorist elements have penetrated the Tri-Border Area where Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay meet.

This area has long been a haven for fund-raising, recruiting and plotting terrorist attacks in the region, including the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires that killed 29 people, and the 1994 attack that leveled the Jewish community center there and killed 85.

Livni praised de Barillas for comments opposing the Iranian threat.

Livni also presented the El Salvadoran foreign minister with a Certificate of Commemoration in appreciation of her country’s policy toward Jews during the Holocaust.

“The government and people of Israel extend their deepest gratitude to the El Salvadoran government, who, by issuing El Salvadoran citizenship papers at the consulate in Geneva headed by Consul-General Jose Arturo Castellanos Contreras, contributed to saving thousands of persecuted European Jews during the Second World War.”

During the war, Contreras issued thousands of false citizenship papers to Jews from central Europe, mainly from Hungary.

These documents enabled whole families to register as citizens of El Salvador, something that granted them a degree of protection and prevented them from being deported to the concentration camps.

In July 1944, El Salvador requested that Switzerland act as the protector of its citizens in Hungary, at the time under German occupation. As far as it is known, the vast majority of El Salvadoran citizens in Hungary at that time was comprised of Jews who received their citizenship papers from the consulate in Geneva.

Contreras died in 1977, with his heroism largely unrecognized.


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