CARACAS (Reuters) – Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has arrived in Venezuela for the start of a tour of Latin America, Venezuela’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday, amid intense efforts by Washington to limit Iran’s influence in the western hemisphere.
Zarif is also scheduled to visit Cuba and to attend the inauguration of Bolivian president-elect Luis Arce, who has said he will strengthen ties with Iran.
He was “received by Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza upon his arrival to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, where he will carry out an intense work agenda at the highest level,” Venezuela’s foreign ministry wrote on Twitter.
Tehran has become a crucial ally for Caracas as the United States tightens sanctions meant to force President Nicolas Maduro from power.
Iran has sent two flotillas of fuel tankers to Venezuela this year to help resolve debilitating gasoline shortages in the South American nation, spurred by a collapse in its refining network as well as the sanctions, which have complicated fuel imports from more traditional trade partners.
(Reporting by Brian Ellsworth in Caracas; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)