Keep an eye on Latin America, critic warns

Jan. 11, 2012 at 10:15 AM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- A U.S. lawmaker lashed out of the White House for doing little to curb the rise of dictatorship in Latin America and regional alliances with Iran.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad joined Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in Nicaragua to attend the inauguration of Daniel Ortega, who won a second consecutive term despite allegations of voting irregularities and voter intimidation.

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement Iran has thrown its support behind dictatorial regimes in Latin America, increasing the threat to U.S. national interests.

"These brutal dictators stick together," she said.

Washington expelled the Venezuelan consul general in Miami over an alleged plot among Venezuelan, Iranian and Cuban diplomats to launch a cyberattack against Washington.

Ahmadinejad is in Latin America to shore up support from regional leftist leaders as tough new Western sanctions seek to isolate the Islamic republic and target its vital oil exports.

"The United States and other free, democratic nations in the hemisphere must denounce the Ortega tyranny immediately, call for the reinstitution of the democratic process in Nicaragua, and remain alert against the continued rise of dictatorships in the region and their alliances with Iran," said the Florida lawmaker, who is of Cuban descent.

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