Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, facing tighter U.S. sanctions and rising tensions in the Persian Gulf, will turn to his diminished group of allies in Latin America for support this week.

Ahmadinejad arrived in Venezuela yesterday to kick off a four-nation tour to push investment projects such as a hydro- electric power plant in Ecuador. He’ll be joining forces with leaders like Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Cuba’s Raul Castroin taking shots at the U.S. in its own backyard, defying attempts to isolate Iran over its nuclear activities.

Iran’s Latin American allies shouldn’t expect too much in return. Iran has yet to fulfill pledges made by Ahmadinejad on previous trips -- he’s made four since 2005 -- to build a port in Nicaragua and an oil refinery in Ecuador. Unlike during his last regional tour in 2009, he won’t visit Brazil, where President Dilma Rousseff has shown little interest in deepening ties forged by her predecessor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

“The promises of aid and investment have not been kept,” Cynthia Arnson, Latin America program director at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, said in a phone interview. “This is clearly a political solidarity tour to reinforce relationships with a small number of allies.”

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