Beef from Brazil is on Iranian dinner tables. An Iranian-built hospital treats patients near Bolivia's capital. Iranian-funded factories dot the Venezuelan countryside.
Iran has forged hundreds of agreements with Latin American nations and pledged billions of dollars to fund them.
More deals could be in store this week as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad embarks on a trip that starts in Venezuela on Sunday and includes stops in Nicaragua, Ecuador and Cuba.
Well before the Iranian leader's arrival in Caracas, his plans for a Latin America tour grabbed global attention as tensions grow between many Western powers and Iran over the nation's nuclear program.
"As the regime feels increasing pressure, it is desperate for friends and flailing around in interesting places to find new friends," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters Friday.
But analysts say Ahmadinejad's visit is the latest step in a longstanding, calculated effort to shore up support in the region.
As Iran strives to improve its image, get around stiffening sanctions, dampen America's global influence and secure a stronger foothold in the United States' backyard, relationships with Latin American countries have become increasingly important.FULL STORY