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Iran Making Gains in Latin America: Iran continues to court countries within US Southern Command's area of responsibility in an effort to "circumvent international sanctions," SOUTHCOM Commander Gen. Douglas Fraser told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday. Iran has successfully established "modest economic, cultural, and security ties," with countries like Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, he said. Those nations are aligned under the Bolivarian Alliance for the People of our Americas, or ALBA, that strives for regional economic integration outside of US influence. Iran also utilizes 36 Shi'a cultural centers to "propagate its agenda" in Latin America, including one in Buenos Aires run by a radical cleric who is on Interpol's wanted list for involvement in bombings against a Jewish cultural center in the city in 1994, said Fraser. "We take Iranian activity in the hemisphere seriously and we monitor its activities closely," he said. He noted: "The US government's successful detection and thwarting of the plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States reinforces the importance of that monitoring and the effectiveness of US countermeasures." (Fraser's prepared testimony)