© Provided by the Associated Press
A poster promotes the first Iranian supermarket in Latin America near a poor neighborhood on Wednesday, July 29, 2020, in Caracas, Venezuela. (AP Photo / Matías Delacroix)
United States officials disagreed with the opening of an Iranian supermarket in Caracas, saying Thursday that any presence of Iran in the western hemisphere « is not something we view very favorably. »
The acting undersecretary of the Office of Western Hemisphere Affairs of the US State Department, Michael Kozak, told reporters in a call that the opening of the supermarket shows that this is like an alliance between « pariah » states.
« I would really be surprised if Venezuela manages to get many benefits from Iran, » Kozak said in response to a journalist’s question about the supermarket. « Iran is willing to tinker, it is willing to sell goods to Venezuela when Venezuela really does not have the money to buy much. »
An Iranian cargo ship docked in the South American country in June with food for the new supermarket in Caracas, weeks after the Islamic Republic sent five tankers with gasoline to supply the nation in deep fuel shortages. The recent installments highlight a new and flourishing relationship between the two countries in defiance of the severe financial sanctions imposed by the government of US President Donald Trump.
The new Megasis supermarket in eastern Caracas was opened Wednesday amid a tightening of the quarantine by the coronavirus. The inauguration was a private ceremony attended by only Venezuelan government officials, as well as diplomatic personnel from Iran and businessmen, according to images that a journalist from the Telesur channel published on her Twitter account.
The supermarket is scheduled to open to the public this week.
Kozak on Thursday described Iran as « the largest sponsor of terrorism in the world. »
« Iran is not going to save Venezuela from the situation it has gotten into, but it does put itself in a more dangerous situation by playing these games, » he added.
Megasis is headed by Iranian businessman Issa Rezaei, who runs a chain of 700 supermarkets in Iran.
Rezaei said on Twitter on Tuesday that « our goal is commercial. » He also noted that he is buying products such as mangoes, pineapples and wood from Venezuela to take them to Iran.
Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world, and detractors of President Nicolás Maduro say the fact that the country has to resort to Tehran to obtain gasoline is a sign of the failure of the socialist government.
The United States wants to overthrow Maduro and supports the president’s political rival, Juan Guaidó.
Maduro attributes many of Venezuela’s problems to U.S. sanctions and other measures that are intended to undermine his government. He claims that the United States wants to install a puppet government to exploit Venezuela’s vast resources.