The war in Ukraine catches Latin America far away, with an ocean in between, but its consequences are also felt in these countries, their leaders are divided on the contention and have tried to a large extent to maintain the traditional neutrality of the region, while condemning the Russian aggression.
The contest, which has become a topic of debate in all international events in the last year, is not on the agenda of the Ibero-American Summit on March 24 and 25 in the Dominican Republic, but the head of the Ibero-American General Secretariat (SEGIB) , Andrés Allamand, without a doubt that the issue will be mentioned by some of the leaders during their speeches.
Beyond that, he does not believe that some kind of joint message or proposal could come out of the meeting in Santo Domingo, since the rule of consensus governs the Ibero-American Community, so any declaration or text would need the support of the 22 countries that make it up –19 from Latin America together with Spain, Portugal and Andorra–.
The absence of the president of Brazil, Luiz Inazio Lula da Silva, the last in the region to formulate a negotiation proposal to resolve the conflict, as well as the Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, another of those who has most opted for a solution dialogue invites us to think that no leader will formulate a concrete position to be adopted by the 22 countries.
Except for those considered the ‘usual suspects’, that is, Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, whose support for Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, has been open, other mandates have opted to keep as far away as possible, in line with the traditional regional non-interference policy.
With everything, except for Venezuela and Nicaragua, the rest of the countries in the region have aligned themselves with the West in condemning Russia for its aggression, but they have not wanted to go any further, underlined the director of the ‘think tank’ Council on Foreign Relations in Argentina, Juan Battaleme. In the case of this country as well as Brazil “they have maintained a calculated ambiguity not for strategic reasons but to avoid clashes with some more ideologized sectors of the ruling coalitions or for other internal reasons,” he adds.
The UN General Assembly has become the best thermometer of the feelings of the Ibero-American countries regarding the conflict. In it, four resolutions have been voted to date condemning the Russian invasion and calling for the restoration of peace.
The first vote took place just one month after the start of the war, on March 24, 2022. The text, presented by France and Mexico, to which 90 countries ended up joining, appealed for the immediate cessation of hostilities and was endorsed by 140 votes in favor, five against and 38 abstentions, including Bolivia, Cuba, El Salvador and Nicaragua.
The last one took place on February 23, the eve of the first anniversary, and it called for the withdrawal of Russian troops and stressed the “need to achieve a general, just and lasting peace as soon as possible.” The text went ahead with 141 votes in favor, seven against –including Nicaragua– and 32 abstentions. Among the countries that abstained were Bolivia, Cuba and El Salvador, while Venezuela did not participate in both suspended votes because it is late in paying its quotas to the UN.
Thus, the United States offered several Ibero-American countries that have Russian-made weapons in January to provide them with a more modern replacement if they agreed to send it to Ukraine, according to what the commander of the US Southern Command, General Laura Richardson, revealed in the past.
However, the response that came from countries such as Colombia, Chile, Argentina or Brazil, all of them in possession of weapons that could be useful to Ukraine at this time of the conflict, was negative.
Colombian President Gustavo Petro conceded the US offer and clarified that the war material in question had maintenance problems. However, he stressed that “it will remain as scrap metal in Colombia.” “We are not with anyone, we are with peace, that is why no (Colombian) weapon will be used in that conflict,” he settled.
Lula spoke along the same lines. “Brazil has no interest in sending ammunition to be used in the war,” he said at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, referring to the fact that his country has the necessary projectiles for the Leopard tanks. that Germany and other European countries are going to send to Ukraine.
“Brazil is a country of peace and therefore does not want to have any participation, not even indirectly. we should look for who can help find peace between Russia and Ukraine, ”he defended, volunteering to negotiate with both Volodimir Zelenski and Vladimir Putin.
Nor is Chile, which also has the ammunition the Leopards need, in favor of supplying Kiev, although in its case it has offered support for the destruction once the conflict ends. “We will always defend multilateralism, the peaceful resolution of conflicts and the validity of Human Rights,” said its president, Gabriel Boric, together with Scholz during his visit to the country.
The response received by the German chancellor in Buenos Aires was similar. His president, Alberto Fernández, stressed that Argentina has no intention of sending weapons to Ukraine or any other country in conflict.
The Mexican president has also been particularly critical of the supply of weapons to Ukraine. After knowing the decision that Germany would finally send the Leopards requested by kyiv, López Obrador announced that it was the result of pressure from the German press. In addition, the Aztec country has also offered to mediate between the parties.
In reality, Russia’s weight in the Latin American economy has so far been low. In 2020, it represented some 11.9 billion dollars, 0.64% of the region’s total trade. However, growth forecasts, which have already been seriously affected due to the pandemic, have also been revised downward by organizations such as the IMF, following the start of the war.
The sanctions that both the United States and the EU have imposed on the Russian energy sector have accelerated Russia’s interest in Latin America. Thus, last summer, with Jair Bolsonaro still as president, Brazil increased its imports of Russian diesel by 15% in order to lower prices and regain support, while Cuba and Venezuela have followed important petroleum products, according to experts from the ‘ expert group’ CSIS.
But more than the energy question, if something has affected Latin America it has been the problems of fertilizer supply, of which Russia and Ukraine are two of the main producers. Brazil imported 25% of its fertilizers from Russia in 2021, while Argentina imported more than 500,000 tons and Mexico and Peru also depend on this supply, according to the ‘think-tank’ AS-COA.
The lack of supply of fertilizers and their high price can have an impact on food production in Latin America in the long run at a time when the region faces severe food insecurity.
Thus, only one country in the region, Costa Rica, has joined the sanctions that the United States, the EU and other countries have imposed on Russia for the invasion of Ukraine. The Central American country has instructed its companies to comply with US directives.