4 de julio de 2012

Considerations on Belarus upgraded relations in Latin America

Chávez y Lukashenko, 26th June 2012. CC via Chavezcandanga

Yes, you read the title correctly. Belarus is upgrading strategic relations with some countries in Latin America.

Following Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad diplomatic strategy, Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko is paying a five-day official visit to Cuba, Venezuela and Ecuador, three key anti-American players with notorious but not decisive leadership in Latin America.

Official statements released by Belarusian government underline strategic alliances in the areas of agriculture and biotechnology (with Cuba) automotive industry, housing and, of course, oil and gas (with Venezuela and Ecuador). 

Minsk is clearly seeking strategic support outside EU and US area of influence. The ALBA countries, like Cuba and Nicaragua, are welcoming such alternative as a reactivation of the erstwhile political relations and cooperation maintained with the Soviet Union during the second half of the twentieth century. 
Cuba is interested in Belarusian spare parts for their transport fleet and cargo purchased decades ago to the former USSR. On the other hand, Venezuela and Belarus have developed joint projects in tractor and lorries manufacturing, as well as housing, one of the key social issues that the South American country faces.

However, the upgraded relationship Belarus - ALBA countries, in the short term, cannot be only seen under the scope of the projects mentioned before.

Hugo Chavez is currently in electoral campaign running his fourth consecutive term in power. His political performance is expectedly leaning towards internal affairs, seeking to strengthen his political figure. Lukashenko, who admitted being initially unconvinced to the idea of ​​expanding relations in the Region, brings support to the Venezuelan leader and both are making the most of it by letting their supporters know “they are not alone”. 

President Chavez, who publicly regarded president Lukashenko as a great revolutionary leader, stressed that Belarus and Venezuela have signed more than two hundred cooperation agreements over the last decade, and the current Venezuelan-Belarusian alliance state is “not only strategic but also a true brotherhood”.

Iran and Russia have already positioned themselves as a strategic partners in Latin American countries like Venezuela, Ecuador, Cuba and Bolivia, primarily in the realms of defense and security, renewable and nonrenewable energy projects, infrastructure and machinery

No need to elaborate further on the overall US disapproval, however, Brazil, the emerging power in the Region, is neither welcoming such strategic manoeuvres by ALBA countries. The latest clear signal was given by Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff who refuse an official meeting with her Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during the Rio +20 Summit, early this month.

Nevertheless, media coverage to the Belarusian president official in the Region has being rather sparse. The Latin American public opinion is mainly focused on the forthcoming Mexican presidential election on the 1st of July, the recent Paraguayan presidential impeachment and subsequent political crisis, an impeachment to the now former president Fernando Lugo, which is considered by many as a Parliamentary coup, and other union / indigenous protests in Argentina and Bolivia.

Yet, Belarus is seeking to enter as another player to the balance power struggle in the Americas targeting anti-US regimes in a region with vast natural resources, including strategic energy resources such as oil, gas and lithium, but also a 400-million-people market in a context of economic growth where millions are coming out of poverty every year.

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