Lavrov’s Latin American Tour: Challenging US Hegemony in America’s ‘Backyard’

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during his trip to Cuba.InternationalIndiaAfricaRussia’s foreign minister wrapped up a four-day, four-country visit to South and Central America on Thursday, visiting Brazil, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba. What was the significance of the trip for Russia’s relations with its Latin American partners, and what signal does it send Washington and its allies? Sputnik explores.Sergei Lavrov’s visit to Brazil, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba resulted in a number of agreements in various areas of cooperation, but above all served to solidify the political consensus on the need to recalibrate the balance of power in Latin America, which historically has been on the side of Washington.“The four countries [visited by the Russian foreign minister, ed.] at least in the political sense, are increasingly seeking to distance themselves from US pressure and hegemony in the region,” says Carlos Manuel Lopez Alvarado, a researcher of international affairs from the National Autonomous University of Mexico.“Lavrov’s visit is part of these regional efforts to become a counterbalance to US policy and hegemony on a global scale,” Lopez Alvarado explained in an interview with Sputnik.

Brazilian Gateway

According to the Mexican academic, although some ideological distance remains between Brasilia and Moscow in their relations, these are not insurmountable, and the election of Lula da Silva should help narrow the gap. “With Lula back in power, he is naturally again in favor of distancing his country [from the US], in favor of autonomy, in favor of Latin American and, of course, Brazilian sovereignty.”Lopez Alvarado found it significant that Lavrov made Brazil the first destination of his Latin American tour, saying it indicates the need to ‘balance the scales’ in the region, as well as Moscow’s desire to find common ground with a large number of Latin American countries that are looking to bet on the construction of a multipolar world. “For this, forces are needed, and one of these forces is Brazil, which is also a member of the BRICS group of nations.”WorldRussia Backs Brazil’s UNSC Permanent Member Bid as Bilateral Trade Hits Record High17 April, 21:59 GMT

Venezuelan Oil Power

Venezuela, despite its recent economic difficulties, is also of great importance in the push for regional realignment, Lopez Alvarado says, both due to its energy resources, and the important role it can play in assisting the de-dollarization drive presently gaining momentum around the world.“If, hypothetically speaking, Venezuela stops supplying energy to the United States and begins sending them to Russia after achieving fundamental, strategic relations, this would be a terrible blow to Washington,” the observer said.Speaking in Caracas, Lavrov vowed that Moscow would continue to do everything in its power “to make Venezuela’s economy less and less dependent on the whims and geopolitical games of the US or any other actors from the Western camp.”WorldLavrov: Moscow to Put All Efforts to Help Caracas’ Economy Not Depend on US Sanctions19 April, 00:57 GMT

Old Friends From Managua

As for Nicaragua, the country has not only been a faithful ally to Moscow for decades under the presidency of Daniel Ortega, but has also been a major source of investment from China – Russia’s strategic partner. “It’s a commercial enclave, a political enclave, a cultural enclave,” Lopez Alvarado explained.During his visit to Managua on April 19, Lavrov and Ortega discussed a range of economic cooperation initiatives, with the Russian foreign minister congratulating Nicaragua on surviving a 2018 US-backed coup attempt. Ortega reciprocated by blasting the American “gringos” and their NATO allies for surrounding Russia with military bases and weapons, and “directing an orchestra of international terrorists” against Moscow.WorldRussia Facing Off Against a NATO-backed ‘Orchestra of Terrorists’, Nicaragua’s Ortega Says20 April, 13:50 GMT

Special Bond With Cuban Comrades

Russia’s long-time ally and partner Cuba was the final destination of Lavrov’s Latin American tour. There, in addition to meeting with his Cuban counterpart, Bruno Rodriguez, the Russian foreign minister met with Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canal and former president Raul Castro. Trade, including the delivery of Russian energy and wheat, were central topics of discussion.“Unfortunately for the USA, Cuba – which serves as a key geopolitical enclave in the Caribbean, has never been closely linked to US interests” in its recent history, “and now, with further rapprochement with the Russian government, even more so,” Lopez Alvarado said.Manuel Espinoza, a researcher with the Regional Center for International Studies, a virtual foreign affairs think tank, says Lavrov’s trip to Havana opens up a whole range of opportunities for both nations. The strategic ties between the two countries has “already shown its worth in the most difficult times, as Russia offers us the strengthening of independence and economic and political sovereignty at the international level,” the observer noted.Russia “not only challenges the unipolar world order, but symbolizes peace and respect for international law, as well as cooperation in areas such as technology, finance, military affairs and culture,” Espinoza added.WorldLavrov: Russia and US Currently Have No Concrete Relations20 April, 17:47 GMTLavrov’s trip to Cuba coincided with the 62nd anniversary of revolutionary Cuba’s victory over US-backed mercenaries at the Bay of Pigs. Pointing to the symbolic timing of the visit, Mario Antonio Padillas Torres, secretary of the Center for International Policy Research, a Havana-based international affairs think tank, told Sputnik that the warm ties between Havana and Moscow today owe their roots to the creation of the island nation’s first Communist Party in 1925.“From this moment on, a direct connection was formed with the USSR. And after January 1, 1959 and the victory of the rebel army over the dictator Fulgencio Batista, ties were strengthened in economic, military and political terms. We even joined the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance together with other socialist countries,” the scholar recalled.Rene Gonzalez Barrios, director of the Fidel Castro Ruz Center and former president of the Institute of History of Cuba, similarly reminded Sputnik of the importance of the support provided by the USSR and other members of the socialist camp to the Cuban Revolution, as the US encouraged a mass exodus of educated Cubans, blocked oil deliveries and canceled the purchase of Cuban sugar. It was Moscow’s support in the difficult early days that sealed the bond of friendship between the Cuban and Soviet people, the scholar said.“This was an extraordinary, close and brotherly relationship,” Gonzalez Barrios noted. Moscow, he recalled, came to refer to Cuba the ‘Freedom Island’, while Havana, despite joining the Soviet Union’s orbit, “defended its self-determination, made its own decisions, and supported the national liberation movements and the struggle against colonialism.” At the same time, Fidel Castro, Cuba’s late revolutionary leader, recognized that “had it not been for the help of the Soviet people and government, the Cuban Revolution would hardly have survived.”WorldRussian Gov’t Delegation to Visit Cuba in May to Promote Economic Cooperation10 April, 12:55 GMTAfter a difficult decade of relations after the collapse of the USSR, Russia gradually began to restore pragmatic cooperation and trade with the Caribbean island nation, especially since 2008, Padilla Torres said. According to the scholar, both countries were able to rediscover their common interests, and joint purpose of the formation of a new international order. Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Cuba in 2000, referring to the country as an “old and loyal friend.” During another trip in 2014, the two countries signed nearly a dozen major investment and economic cooperation agreements. A year before that, Moscow wrote off 90 percent of Cuba’s $35 billion debt to the USSR.During his visit to Moscow last November, President Diaz-Canal spoke to Putin about the prospects of further strengthening and expanding cooperation in the political, trade, economic, cultural and humanitarian spheres. Russia is now one of Cuba’s 10 largest trade partners, and Havana emphasizes the importance of its ties with Russia in its Socio-Economic Development Plan up to the year 2030.

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