US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sparked outrage in Tehran when he said there was “no doubt” that Iran had a financial presence in South America and remained a “global threat”. Mr Pompeo said: “Iranian money remains in South America being used for malign purposes, supporting Hizbollah, supporting transnational criminal organizations, supporting efforts at terrorism throughout the region.”
He said Mahan Air – sanctioned by Washington for allegedly transporting military equipment to Middle East war zones – had begun direct flights last week from Tehran to Caracas.
He said: ”This is Iran intervening in South America. That’s not in the best interests of the South American people, and the United States stands ready.
“We see Iran for what it is: the world’s largest state sponsor of terror. That’s a global threat.”
His comments were rejected by Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Seyyed Abbas Mousavi who accused the US of trying to turn Latin America “into its backyard, just like the 19th century”.
Mr Mousavi said the global community, especially the people of Latin America, “have awakened and the wheel of time does not move backward”.
He said: “While Iranian specialists are trying to improve the water and electricity systems in Venezuela at the request of the government of Caracas, the US has looted $30 billion worth of Venezuela’s foreign-exchange reserves.
“The US government has targeted the Venezuelan nation with economic terrorism, asking them to either riot against their legitimate government or face starvation.
“The US move is blatant and arrogant interference in Venezuela’s internal affairs, and is strongly condemned.”
Washington has already accused Russia, China and Cuba of getting involved in the Venezuelan leadership crisis where embattled socialist President Nicolas Maduro is struggling to hold power amid street protests and a political battle with self-declared interim President Juan Guaido.