Shimon Peres, the President of Israel, is starting today, November 9, a "historic visit" to Brazil and Argentina, the first in decades to both countries for an Israeli head of state. One of the main issues of the agenda will be the so-called "Iranian infiltration" in Latin America.
His visit to Brazil will be just a few days ahead of that of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is due to arrive in Brazilian capital Brasília on November 23.
Peres, who was invited by his peers from Argentina, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva heads a delegation of forty businessmen who will attempt to re-launch bilateral trade and boost bilateral investments.
"With this visit President Peres will try to strengthen and increase strategic, diplomatic and economic relations with these two Latin American countries of fundamental importance," said the Israeli presidential office in an official release.
Peres has visited Argentina and Brazil on several occasions in the different posts he has held in Israeli governments but this is his first as head of state. It is also the first time in forty years an Israeli president visits Brazil and twenty to Argentina.
According to the program, Peres begins his visit to Brazil on Tuesday until next Saturday and then Argentina from Sunday November 15 till Tuesday. He is scheduled to hold private meetings with Presidents Lula and Kirchner as well as with Foreign Affairs, Economy and Defense ministers plus leaders of Congress and the local Jewish communities.
"In the framework of these meetings President Peres will address Iranian infiltration in the continent," points out the release in direct reference to the close relations established by some Latin American countries, such as Venezuela and Bolivia, with the Teheran regime, which for Israel represents its main enemy.
Peres will emphasize the threat that Iran will pose to the world if it is permitted to continue with its nuclear program. Ahmadinejad's frequent calls for Israel's elimination will also factor in the discussions.
Argentina and Brazil boast the two largest Jewish communities in South America – about 300,000 and 16,000, respectively – and each will be addressed by Peres in the course of his visit.
A special memorial service will be held at the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires in memory of the victims of the March 1992 bomb attack that was subsequently traced to Iran and Hezbollah. The blast, which destroyed the embassy, a nearby school and a Catholic Church, claimed 29 lives. In addition 242 people were wounded.
Two years later, in July 1994, a bomb detonated in front of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires took the lives of 85 people and wounded more than 300. The evidence again pointed to Iran and Hezbollah, but no one was convicted.
The visit to South America has been coordinated between Beit Hanassi, the Israel Export Institute, the Israel Manufacturers Association, the Jewish Agency, the governments of Brazil and Argentina and the Jewish Federations of those countries.
On his return to Israel, Peres will bring with him some 30 new immigrants from Brazil and Argentina.
Iranian president Ahmadinejad's visit at the end of November is aimed at discussing bilateral and international relations and cooperation between Teheran and Brasília at international and regional levels, according to the Farsi News Agency. Originally the visit to Brazil had been scheduled for last May.