By Melanius Alphonse
Caribbean News Now associate managing editor
WASHINGTON, USA – At a news conference, China’s foreign ministry representative Lu Kang explained mutual opportunities and cooperation between China and Latin America countries in the “US backyard”, citing the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), to help improve the region’s economy and bring tangible benefits of peace and stability to Latin America and the Caribbean.
This includes Ecuador, the most recent to receive approval to start the internal procedures to become one of the countries from the Pacific Alliance that will facilitate joint initiatives, especially with China.
Alongside the mutual opportunities to Latin America, Ecuador’s ambassador to China, Carlos Larrea Davila, noted the growth of the middle class in China is an opportunity for Latin America to be a provider of resources and cooperation in many important and strategic aspects.
On April 11, Jamaica became the fifth Caribbean nation to sign onto the BRI, following Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, Guyana and Barbados. Minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade, Kamina Johnson Smith, and Chinese ambassador to Jamaica, Tian Qi, signed the BRI agreement. Through this initiative, the Chinese are expected to invest heavily in each country’s infrastructure and economy.
US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, following his four-day trip to US allies Colombia, Chile, Paraguay and Peru, said on Friday, Chinese investments are “corrosive, giving life to corruption, and eroding good governance.”
China-Chile trade exceeded US$42.8 billion far higher than Chile-US trade of US$24 billion. China also invested more than six billion in Chile.
Kang refuted Pompeo’s comments as “groundless”, claiming that the United States is the one that severely damages the peace and stability of Latin America by treating the region as its “backyard,” and imposing frequent military intervention or sanctions to that region.”
Similarly, North Korea has issued a damning criticism of Pompeo, calling for him to be replaced in any future US-North Korea talks by someone who is “more careful and mature,” North Korean state news agency KCNA reported.
Last Sunday, Chinese ambassador to Chile, Xu Bu, refuted Pompeo’s “malicious” accusation against China during his visit to Chile, saying “Pompeo has lost his mind and gone too far.”
“Such accusations are absurd,” Bu said, in an interview with the La Tercera newspaper.
“The economic and trade cooperation between China and Chile has brought tangible benefits to the development of the Chilean economy,” Bu continued.
“The United States has not made substantial contributions to the economic development of Latin American countries but accuses China of its economic and trade cooperation with Latin America and its investment in Latin America. Pompeo is a hypocrite,” he said.
“Pompeo affirms that the US is a reliable partner in Latin America, and I suppose that it under-estimates the memory of Latin Americans,” Bu continued.
“Historically, the United States has treated Latin America as its ‘backyard,’ imposing frequent military interventions or sanctions. Pompeo should get rid of hegemonism and cold-war thinking,” he said.
“There are numerous examples, including the relentless blockade imposed by the United States against Cuba for more than half a century. US President Donald Trump construction of a wall along the US-Mexico border between, and the very little assistance provided by the United States to Haiti and Central American countries. Chileans are also well aware that Chile’s development achievements are not the result of American charity,” Bu said.
On Venezuela, Pompeo reaffirmed the United States would use all means, including military intervention, to solve Venezuela’s problem. This prompted Bu to reiterate China’s stance that it has always adhered to the policy of non-interference in internal affairs of other countries and said it is up to the Venezuelan people to decide how to solve the country’s problem.
“If the United States really cares about democracy and human rights in Latin America, it should immediately stop sanctions against other countries and take measures to promote economic development in Latin America, not just empty promises,” Bu said.
Trump has tightened economic sanctions on Cuba and Venezuela, cutting direct assistance to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, and threatens to close the southern border. This makes Latin America economics vulnerable and permits leverage to revisit the roots of revolution [a protracted guerrilla war] in Latin America.
Similarly, Trump enforced new sanctions and other punitive measures on Venezuela and Cuba, seeking to intensify US pressure on Havana to cease its backing of Venezuela’s socialist president, Nicolas Maduro.
This followed the State Department declaring that it was reinstating Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, which allows US citizens to file suits in US courts against those “trafficking” in properties confiscated in Cuba. Its reach is extraterritorial and allows suits to move forward against foreign defendants.
US National Security Adviser, John Bolton, in Miami, speaking to a Cuban exile group, said that the US was targeting Cuba’s intelligence services and military, as well as a military-owned airline, for new sanctions and was tightening travel and trade restrictions against the island regime led by President Miguel Diaz-Canel.
According to Kang, “China-Latin America cooperation is conducted based on the principle of mutual respect and mutual benefits.”
This allows China to scout for bargain-basement deals and inherent geopolitical balance and/or equilibrium, on humanitarian aid, peacekeeping, military exchanges, arms sales and donations, and technology transfers.
These impact national interests, diplomacy and foreign policy, building relationships on strategic trust that challenge the US in its hemisphere, thus raising China’s regional and global influence.
China’s geopolitical manoeuvring, diplomacy, foreign policy and economic interest presents the gravest irritant and outrage in Washington, and according to Vice President Mike Pence, “creates a greater threat to the US-led NATO Western military alliance than Russia.”
US Southern Command Chief Navy Admiral Craig Faller, said: “I think the biggest threat to democracy and the way of life around the world is the trend that we see in China.”
Faller added, “There is no other actor in Latin America, with the possible exception of the Cubans, who as much control the fate of Nicolás Maduro and his henchman as China does.”