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RIAC is pleased to announce the launch of new educational series where lectures of leading Russian diplomats and members of Russian diplomatic community will be featured. Here is the first edition — Lecture by Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Valery Morozov for the Students of the Siberian Federal University in Krasnoyarsk held under RIAC Days.

RIAC is pleased to announce the launch of new educational series where lectures of leading Russian diplomats and members of Russian diplomatic community will be featured. Here is the first edition — Lecture by Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Valery Morozov for the Students of the Siberian Federal University in Krasnoyarsk held under RIAC Days.

Lecture by Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Valery Morozov for the Students of the Siberian Federal University (Krasnoyarsk)

I would like to begin by saying a few words about Latin America in general. The geographical term “Latin America” was introduced by Napoleon III. It is a collective term for countries and territories on the American continent whose inhabitants spoke what used to be called Ibero-Romance language and which was linked historically with Europe, chiefly with Spain and Portugal.

The term “Latin America” became widespread in the early 20th century and was finally established in the 1930s. Before that, the expression most frequently used in historical literature was “Spanish America”. Today, the concept of “Ibero-America” is used and, more recently, thanks to the late Hugo Chavez, the term “Indian America” has gained some currency, because most Latin American countries have Indian populations which are playing an increasingly prominent role in the region’s political life.

At present, Latin America includes Spanish-speaking countries from Argentina to Mexico and Portuguese-speaking Brazil. It also comprises the countries and territories of the Caribbean basin, including 14 independent English-speaking countries and French-speaking Haiti. It also has dependencies with semi-colonial status: six belonging to the United Kingdom, five to France, six to the Netherlands and two to the United States.

Latin America is around 21 million square kilometres in area, which is about the size of the former Soviet Union. The ethnic composition of the region is very diverse: Creoles; descendants of the white conquerors from Spain and Portugal; people of mixed race (white and native American); and mulattoes, or people born to one white parent and one black parent. There are black people descended from those who had been brought from Africa and now populate part of the Caribbean states and Brazil. There are some people of Asian origin. The languages spoken are English, French, Portuguese and Dutch. Indian languages survive in some countries: Aymara and Quechua in Bolivia and Paraguay; Maya in the south of what is today Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Belize; plus various dialects.

Why does Latin America attract the attention of the United States and many West European and Asian countries? The answer is that the region is rich in natural resources. It has about 30 per cent of the world’s fresh water, one-third of its forests, 18 per cent of its oil, 30 per cent of ferrous metals and many rare non-ferrous metals. The region meets 70 per cent of the strategic raw materials needs of the United States. More recently, rapidly growing China and India have shown a keen interest in the natural resources and markets of Latin America. It should be noted that Latin America is one of the main suppliers of food to the world market.

Since the late 20th and early 21st centuries, the region has been steadily strengthening its economic and political positions, and is in fact emerging as one of the centres of the multipolar world. The bipolar world order that existed in the times of the Soviet Union is being reformatted. Two blocs emerged after World War II: the Eastern bloc led by the Soviet Union and the U.S.-led Western bloc. During the Cold War, international relations were determined by the confrontation between these two blocs. Many countries, including those in Latin America, had to put the interests of their bloc above their own national interests. The same was true of the Soviet bloc, or the Warsaw Treaty bloc, as it was called: its member countries had to align their foreign policy with the overall strategy embodied by the Soviet Union.

The end of the Cold War led to the break-up of these blocs. Latin American countries gained more freedom of action and were able to express and defend their interests. They began to gradually free themselves from tutelage by the United States, build their own structure of relations and seek partners outside the region, which brought them into conflict not only with the Unites States, but also with other countries. Rivalries between states within the region increased.

All these factors had an impact on the formation of the Latin American development model. None of the region’s countries is a top-ranking power, but together they exert considerable influence on the global economy and politics. Latin America is home to 625 million people. Its economic potential is growing. For example, Brazil is a rising economic giant that is forging ahead in various fields, including rocket-building, nuclear energy, the aviation industry and cutting-edge technologies. In terms of economic indicators, Brazil ranks fifth in the world and aspires to become a member of the United Nations Security Council. The following factors contribute to Latin America’s increasing economic weight in the world:

  • the growing potential of Brazil;
  • the powerful expansion of foreign trade in Mexico, one of the leading countries in the world in terms of foreign trade (its foreign trade in certain years exceeded $700 billion, more than that of Brazil, Spain, Australia and other countries);
  • the agricultural sector in Argentina and Brazil (Brazil has a population of 200 million, yet is capable of feeding 1 billion people; Argentina has a population of 40 million and can feed 400 million people);
  • Venezuela’s energy sector, which rivals that of Saudi Arabia in terms of oil reserves;
  • Bolivia’s gas resources;
  • the economic advances of Chile and some other states in the region.

On the strength of the above, Latin America is an important emerging centre of the multipolar world and an influential player in global processes. The following facts are further evidence of this. Argentina, Brazil and Mexico are members of the G20 which in many ways determines the economic and financial situation in the world. Brazil is a member of BRICS, a comparatively new international structure (also comprising Russia, India, China and South Africa) that is playing an increasingly prominent role in world politics and economics.

In recent years, Latin American countries have been pivoting towards the Asia Pacific Region (APR). Mexico, Peru and Chile are members of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. These states have, along with Columbia, formed the Pacific Alliance (Alianza del Pacífico), a new and dynamic regional structure. In addition, Mexico, Peru and Chile are members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a transnational entity actively promoted by the United States.

A reset is taking place in the relations between Latin America and Europe. Negotiating mechanisms have been set up between Latin America and the European Union; Mercosur and the European Union; and the Central American Integration System (in which Mexico and the United States play a major role) and the European Union. In its ties with Europe, Latin America is represented either by a group of countries, or by all countries in the region.

What are the features of Latin America that enable it to play an increasingly prominent role?

Two main trends can be observed in the world today. The first is globalization, which sees countries becoming increasingly interdependent. Simultaneously, states are drawing closer together and interacting at the regional level, with new structures seeking to form regional centres of influence. These trends drive the changes taking place all over the world, including in Latin America.

Intra-regional integration processes bolster the position of Latin America and increase its weight in international affairs. The continent’s countries are reappraising their foreign policy principles. For example, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela, Peru and Chile are visibly adjusting their foreign policy strategies towards greater sovereignty and independence. Over the past 10–15 years, Brazil and Mexico have positioned themselves as countries with global interests. Brazil, as I have noted, seeks to become a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

Mexico missed its chance to become a permanent member of the Security Council. Since the 1990s, when the country joined the North American Common Market, the country’s leadership increasingly leaned towards the United States, with which it has a free trade zone, a common border and a vast market. The United States accounts for 85 per cent of Mexico’s foreign trade, while China, Russia, the European Union, and Arab and African countries combined account for a mere 15 per cent.

Until the end of the 20th century, Mexico remained a largely agrarian-industrial country. Oil accounted for up to 40 per cent of its foreign trade. The creation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with the United States and Canada in 1994 stimulated the country’s economic growth. The inflow of U.S. and Canadian capital financed the building of many hi-tech export-oriented enterprises along Mexico’s northern border. As a result, Mexico turned into an industrial-agrarian country. Today, it produces modern electronic and telecommunications equipment, household appliances, automobiles, aircraft, pharmaceuticals and nanotechnology.

However, being tied to the U.S. market has both positive and negative sides. Any crisis in the United States immediately affects the Mexican economy. When the American market contracts and purchasing power falls, demand for Mexican goods drops. So the country’s leadership faces the challenge of finding new markets for its exports. Hence the growing interest in Europe, the Asia Pacific Region, Russia, China, Africa and the Middle East. Gradually, that interest translates itself into concrete economic agreements and broader economic ties.

In recent years, Latin American and Caribbean leaders have demonstrated their commitment to multilateralism. The term “multilateralism”, which appeared fairly recently in diplomatic parlance, means the use of collective approaches in international politics and international affairs. Latin American states have spoken in favour of strengthening the role of the United Nations and the primacy of international law, which is totally in keeping with the Russian approach. These countries differ from one another in size and potential, but they are all dwarfed by their northern neighbour, the United Nations. The history of Latin America is quite tragic. Suffice it to recall government coups and open military interventions carried out with U.S. support (Panama, Grenada, Guatemala and so on). For these countries, international law is the only legal instrument for upholding their sovereignty and independence. This is why Latin America has contributed many useful ideas to international legal science, using the law to further its own interests. Latin American countries consistently come out in support of the peaceful resolution of disputes and internal conflicts, observing the balance of interests and respecting the sovereignty of, and above all non-interference in, the internal affairs of states.

As for left-wing regimes in Latin American countries, the phenomenon is associated primarily with Hugo Chavez, but not only him. When he came to power in 1998, Hugo Chavez became the first left-leaning leader in the region. He was without any doubt a charismatic personality. Many politicians and diplomats believed that Hugo Chavez was a one-off case. Few saw him as a representative of the nascent trend of renewing social relations on the basis of left ideas. The underlying cause of that trend was that traditional structures (political parties, state institutions and administrative machines) had outlived themselves and were beginning to malfunction. There was a need for new ideas and an overall transformation of society. Huge Chavez was the first to sense the new trends and try and put them into practice.

However, similar phenomena were observed in other countries besides Venezuela. For example, Lula da Silva appeared in Brazil, Néstor Kirchner in Argentina, Evo Morales in Bolivia, Rafael Correa in Ecuador, Tabaré Vazquez in Uruguay, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua and Manuel Zelaya in Honduras. On the whole, “new left” regimes (as they are called) won in 12 countries in the region between 2000 and 2013. If we consider the Caribbean basin, which has 14 states (out of the total 33 states in the region), that makes up practically one third of the countries. And if we take only South America, that covers practically all the countries in the region, with the exception of the more moderate regimes in Peru, Chile and Columbia.

The Chavez phenomenon is attributable to the fact that he drew support from the masses, which saw him as a charismatic leader. However, his appeal to the masses was not backed up by any real apparatus. The traditional parties refused to back him. After he came to power, Hugo Chavez quarrelled with everyone, stopped trusting the parties, the old functionaries, the trade unions, business organizations and the Catholic Church. The political parties created at his initiative were weak. The only structure he relied on was the army. He only appointed people he knew personally and trusted to key posts in various power structures, recruiting them mainly from amongst the officers with whom he had served. This brought accusations in the Western media that social, political and economic life in Venezuela was being militarized.

The Venezuelan leader’s relations with Washington did not shape up well. To some extent, the Americans themselves engendered his anti-Americanism. Traditionally, Latin American presidents make their first official visit to the United States, bearing in mind the extent and the economic and political significance of bilateral relations. However, Hugo Chavez was refused entry, in spite of the fact that he was a democratically elected president. Naturally, he developed a negative attitude to the United States, which ultimately influenced his approach to regional and international affairs and led to a confrontation with Washington.

It is a feature of some left regimes that they need strong power to conduct sweeping reforms, which triggers the process of centralization and even usurpation of power. They often opt for totalitarian models, seeking to put the legislative, judiciary and executive branches of power under the control of the single centre. The balance of powers is upset, restrictions are introduced, including restrictions on the activities of civil society institutions. This was all clearly observed in the case of Venezuela. Hugo Chavez introduced constitutional reform that allowed him to be elected any number of times, thus strengthening his personal power regime.

Another Latin American phenomenon that is studied closely is regional integration. There are several forms of economic unification, the simplest one being a free-trade zone. Next come customs unions, a common market and finally, an economic and monetary union, i.e. the highest form of integration that subsumes all previous forms.

Let us consider some of the integration groups that are successfully functioning in Latin America.

In the second half of the 20th century, the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) started developing its first projects. The earliest associations appeared in the 1960s.

The end of the Cold War, the globalization of world economic relations, and the concept of “open regionalism” (free trade, eliminating customs barriers, greater openness to the world market) embraced by many Latin American countries gave rise to new integration trends. In 1991, the South American Common Market (Mercosur) was formed, becoming a major regional integration group that was second in size only to the European Union. In 1994, after Mexico, Canada and the United States formed the North American Free Trade Agreement, Mercosur was pushed into third place. Initially, its members were Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. They were later joined by Bolivia, Chile, Columbia, Peru, Ecuador and (in 2006) Venezuela as associated countries. Brazil is the group’s undoubted leader.

Next to appear was the Central American Integration System (Sistema de la Integración Centroamericana, or SICA). Central American countries are small, but the integration process they are involved in is highly dynamic. A legal framework covering practically all spheres of integration has been put in place. Mexico, being the closest neighbour, plays an important role. Possessing considerable economic weight, Mexico proposed the Mesoamerican Integration and Development Project (Mesoamerica is the old name for Central America and Mexico) and brought Panama, Columbia and the Dominican Republic into the process.

Another integration group that is playing an ever growing role is the Union of South American Nations (Unión de Naciones Suramericanas, or UNASUR), which unites 12 states in the region. How did it come into being? When integration processes in Latin America began, the United States, realizing the economic benefits of such a venture, tried to seize the initiative. In 2005, President Bush Sr. proposed setting up an All-American Free Trade Zone. The Americans were planning to sign a free trade agreement with each individual country. What did that mean in practice? Obviously, the United States had stronger bargaining power than any Latin American country (be it Brazil, Argentina – the largest nations in the region – or Peru, Chile, Columbia and Venezuela). The parties to the negotiations were thus at a disadvantage from the very beginning.

The Latin American countries, notably Brazil, whose economy by that time was gathering strength, proposed integration between blocs. The idea of creating a South American bloc on the basis of Mercosur emerged. The Brazil side managed to persuade 12 South American states to create such a union, UNASUR, which came into effect in 2004. The new association included Mercosur, the Andean Community (Comunidad Andina, or CAN, which comprises five Andean countries – Peru, Columbia, Chile, Venezuela and Bolivia) and some Caribbean countries. That added up to a considerable bloc which could negotiate on equal terms with the U.S.-led North American Free Trade Agreement.

But the American side did not agree to such negotiations and UNASUR followed its own development path. Brazil came to play the leading role on the continent thanks to Mercosur and UNASUR. Brazilian diplomats consistently upheld the interests of Latin America and their own country, which made for more frequent spats with Washington.

In 2004, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) came into existence. It was created on the initiative of Hugo Chavez, along with Cuba and the new leftist regimes that had established themselves (in Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and some small Caribbean states). The ALBA model of political and economic development is based on the concept of the Bolivarian Revolution put forward by Hugo Chavez. The union’s economic foundation is Venezuelan oil and its ideology is Lain American nationalism. In such countries as Bolivia and Ecuador, nationalism was gradually acquiring an Indian coloration.

The alliance’s weakness is that, with the exception of Venezuela, it has no major countries as members. Some believed that ALBA would fall apart with the death of Hugo Chavez, because he had been the organizer, the guiding spirit and leader of the new bloc. Nevertheless, the Alliance is alive and making ambitious plans. It is considering unification with the South American Common Market and the Caribbean states, which could bolster the bloc’s potential by creating a common economic space.

Let us take a look at another structure, the Pacific Alliance, the brainchild of former Peruvian President Alan Garcia. In 2011 Peru, Columbia, Chile and Mexico signed a declaration on a “deeper integration zone”. These four countries had a more or less common ideological and political orientation gravitating towards the conservative centre.

The economic foundation of the bloc is the concept of “open regionalism”, that is, openness to world markets. The main aim of the alliance is integration modelled on that of the European Union. At the same time, its main strategic task is closer ties with the Asia Pacific Region. All four countries, which belong to the Pacific Rim, seek to become part of the region they consider to be the most promising. They seek to become part of the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership as a counterweight to APEC.

Many economists and political analysts see the Trans-Pacific Partnership project as an attempt by Washington to revive the old idea of an All-American Free Trade Zone. The United States has signed bilateral free-trade agreements with each of these countries. Argentina, Brazil and other countries in the region take a guarded view of the new structure, considering it to be an instrument of U.S. influence. Although the United States is preoccupied with the Middle East, it has always regarded Latin America as an important strategic reserve. Having at some point overlooked the integration processes that have strengthened Latin America, the United States is of course trying to snatch back the initiative and take these processes under control. The Pacific Alliance is one of the instruments geared towards that goal.

It has also been suggested that the Pacific Alliance aims to balance and perhaps neutralize the activities of two other groups: UNASUR, which represents the position of Latin American nationalism; and the left-leaning ALBA. Both integration groups seek to reinforce the unification processes in Latin America as a counterweight to U.S. interests.

Mexico plays an important role in the Pacific Alliance. Being a member of the North American Common Market and an ally of the United States, the country is trying to restore its leadership in the region, leadership which it had ceded to Brazil by the end of last century. Mexico has been strengthened economically by joining NAFTA, and is thus looking for ways to “return” to the region. In its search for a new set of instruments, Mexico has decided that the Pacific Alliance could provide such a channel. Membership of the North American Common Market and the Pacific Alliance paves the way for Mexico to the Asia Pacific Region and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Objectively, that would strengthen its positions on the continent.

Russia is also eying the new group. The country has not yet determined its position, although about 30 countries have observer status within the organization. I do not think that Russia should remain on the sidelines, especially since it has not yet been invited to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership. However, we would like to know what is happening there and of course, protect and promote our economic and political interests in that part of the world.

The new association has changed the geopolitical situation in the Western Hemisphere. While previously it was divided into the North and South, the new alliance has divided it into the Pacific and the Atlantic (vertically). It turns out that, as the United States sees it, the Pacific zone is oriented towards counteracting the expansion and influence of China, whereas the Atlantic, where the Transatlantic economic group is taking shape, is geared towards neutralizing the influence of Europe, including Russia.

Finally, the most interesting integration group is the Community of Latin American and Caribbean Countries (Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericanos y Caribeños, or CELAC), which appeared in 2011. The idea of creating a bloc without the United States and Canada, however, goes back to 2010. The Rio Group (Grupo de Río) formed in 1986 was doing rather well, holding regular Latin America and Caribbean summits. These two groups merged into the Community of Latin American and Caribbean Countries.

The idea, initiated by Mexico and Brazil, was backed by Hugo Chavez. It was the first time that a regional group did not include the United States and Canada. Today, this purely Latin America and Caribbean organization comprises all 33 countries, including Cuba, and has a total population of 600 million. The organization is still developing and building up muscle. It was agreed at one of its recent summits that the group would be developed on the basis of respect for the principle of political and economic pluralism. Incidentally, Hugo Chavez considered CELAC to be the peak achievement of Latin American integration.

Over time, the community is intended to replace the Organization of American States that was formed in 1947 and includes the United States and Canada (Washington used it to control the situation in Latin America). In addition to addressing issues of economic development, the group participates in the settlement of the numerous internal political conflicts and inter-state disputes in Latin America.

The United States is rather jealous of CELAC. As for Russia, it has welcomed the birth of a new association. The Russian side believes that CELAC strengthens the role of Latin America and the Caribbean in the overall global governance process.

Russia is developing relations with Latin American and Caribbean countries in two areas: on a bilateral basis with individual countries; and with the groups and regional structures that exist in the Western Hemisphere.

This policy fully justifies itself. On the one hand, Russia is still committed to promoting traditional bilateral ties in various fields. On the other hand, it is keeping a close eye on the integration processes taking place in the region and is trying to maintain links with various associations, bearing in mind that they are important in terms of strengthening the positions of Latin America in the world.

The Latin American strand of Russian foreign policy acquired a significance of its own around 2000, when President Putin made his first trip to Cuba. That visit marked the start of the new Russian policy in Latin America. Russia started building relations with the states in the region, irrespective of their political and ideological orientation, casting aside ideological aspects and proceeding on a purely pragmatic basis. Russia assumes that Latin America should not be a bargaining chip in its dealings with third countries. That applies above all to the United States, which is very sensitive to the presence of other countries in the Western Hemisphere. Russia does not want a conflict. It wants Latin America to be economically developed, politically and socially stable and independent. Then there will be ample opportunities to further develop relations.

Russia has no disputes with Latin American countries. There have always been positive feelings on both sides, and the friendly ties it has developed with individual countries have a long history. If we look at the map at the time of Catherine the Great, we will see that the borders of the Russian Empire stretched to Mexico. We were neighbours in California.

Russia maintains relations with all the 33 Latin American and Caribbean countries. It has 18 embassies and three general consulates in the region. In 15 countries ambassadors are accredited on a part-time basis. In Moscow, there are 15 Latin American embassies and 5 ambassadors are accredited part-time. Honduras is about to open a diplomatic mission. A considerable legal framework has been created. In the last 15 years alone, more than 200 documents have been signed regulating cooperation in diverse areas. Latin America is obviously an important and promising branch of Russia’s foreign policy. With some states, such as Argentina, Brazil, Cuba and Venezuela, relations have acquired a strategic character in keeping with the level of bilateral ties and their role in regional and world affairs.

Against the background of the overall cooling of Russia’s relations with the United States and other Western countries, its relations with Latin America are burgeoning. The states in the region do not support anti-Russian sanctions and are ready to develop business ties, notably in the field of trade. Many of them have started supplying food to the Russian market. Russia has an opportunity to make up for what has been lost in Europe thanks to Latin American countries. Russia trades actively with 27 countries in the region.

However, we should keep in mind that Latin America’s interest in the Russian market will inevitably cause frictions with the United States and Europe. From the information available, it seems that they have already begun pressing Latin American countries to stop supplying food to Russia. They are aware that if Latin America replaces European goods with its own, then they will gain a firm foothold in the Russian market and when sanctions are lifted, the Russian market may be lost to the Europeans for good.

Political dialogue, an important part of bilateral relations, is developing rapidly and very successfully. After President Putin’s visit to Cuba in December 2000, there was talk about Russia coming back to Latin America. The President then visited Mexico, Brazil and Chile. Contacts at the highest levels have increased markedly. In 2014, the President of the Russian Federation visited Cuba, Nicaragua, Argentina and Brazil. He also attended the BRICS summit, where he met with practically all the leaders of South American states.

Russia is making active use of international platforms for meetings with heads of state. For example, President Putin met with the President of Chile at the APEC Forum in Beijing and the President of Brazil at the G20 Summit in Australia. In Moscow, he received the President of Peru and in January 2015, he went on a working visit to Venezuela. Contacts at this level have become regular, whereas only 20–25 years ago they were sporadic.

A great deal is being done by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov regularly receives his counterparts and visits the region himself. In 2014, he visited Nicaragua, Cuba, Peru and Chile. Numerous meetings with Latin American foreign ministers take place on the fringes of UN General Assembly sessions.

Inter-parliamentary cooperation occupies an important place as parliamentary diplomacy is playing an ever more significant role. Inter-parliamentary dialogues are very useful when conflict situations arise, or when international initiatives need to be launched.

Contacts between federal agencies are also useful. Over the past 10–15 years, law enforcement agencies have joined these contacts. Twenty to twenty-five years ago, the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation, the Prosecutor General of Russia, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation and the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation had practically no part in contacts of this kind. Now they are engaged in them on a regular basis. This makes it possible to interact in combatting modern challenges, notably drug trafficking and organized crime.

Take Mexico, for example, whose leaders themselves have admitted that organized crime has become a threat to national security. Formerly, narcotics were delivered from South American countries via Mexico to the United States. Until 2000, the one-party system in Mexico made it possible to keep the transit routes under control. Following the established rules of the game, the drug barons tried to avoid conflicts with the authorities. Narcotics did not settle in Mexico. They were delivered to the borders of the United States, where they became a problem for the U.S., rather than the Mexican, authorities.

The situation has changed recently. Cheaper synthetic drugs have been developed. There is no need any more to receive deliveries of narcotics made from plants from Bolivia, Peru and Columbia. We are mainly talking about cocaine here, which, upon reaching the American border, started to settle on the Mexican side. Cocaine consumption dropped dramatically in the United States.

The falling prices of drugs put them within reach of the local population, and their consumption inside Mexico increased. A consumer market emerged that triggered turf wars between criminal groups. Selling narcotics is more profitable than ensuring their transit through the country. The fierce struggle for markets that flared up between criminal cartels erupts into armed clashes that claim human lives, damage the economy and disrupt public order.

The government of Felipe Calderón (2006–2012) tried to solve the problem by arresting the heads of criminal groups. However, they were replaced by new leaders who rejected the old rules of the game and sought to gain control over the entire criminal business. Criminal cartels have established their writ over almost the entire northern part of Mexico, effectively controlling the territories where trade in drugs, arms and people, gambling and prostitution flourish.

More recently, transiting illegal immigrants from Central America to the United States via Mexico has become a lucrative business. To cross Mexican territory, illegal immigrants have to pay bribes to the criminal groups or face death.

Clashes between criminal groups have become so massive that the authorities had to bring the army into the streets. In Mexico, which is noted for its political stability (there has never been a military coup in Mexico), the army has always been in the barracks. However, today the Army patrols the cities and rural areas, which creates tensions in the country and society.

Cooperation in combatting organized crime has increased the level of relations between Russia and Latin American, and between Russia and the Caribbean countries, making them more mature and trusting.

A new area in Russia’s work with Latin America involves preventing natural disasters and eliminating their consequences. Natural disasters are among the main challenges and threats facing countries today. For example, after a powerful earthquake hit El Salvador several years ago, a government crisis broke out in the country: the authorities botched the job of eliminating its consequences and people took to the streets demanding a change of government. The same happens in many small Caribbean states, where any natural disaster is fraught with dire economic consequences and political and social protests.

Russia is prepared to cooperate in this sphere. One interesting project aims to create a regional centre in Venezuela that would cover the region’s needs for emergency aid. Such aid is rendered collectively by the European Union, the United States and Russia, because it is a global threat that can only be controlled through common efforts.

REUTERS / Guillermo Granja
Evgeny Astakhov:
Map of Latin America in the twenty-second

Russia’s trade and economic ties with Latin America are growing, but not as fast as we would like them to. Trade has never exceeded $18–19 billion. That is, of course, not enough for a country like Russia. For example, over the past ten years, China has brought its trade with Latin American countries to $70–80 billion and aims to increase it to $100 billion. Investment figures are downright humbling: Russian investments amount to about $13 billion, while China’s are in the region of $250 billion.

Of course, this lag has objective and subjective reasons. Russian entrepreneurs still do not see the Latin American market as a promising one for their goods. The situation is changing gradually after the introduction of anti-Russian sanctions, but unfortunately the change is slow.

Ties involving the Russian regions are developing at a reasonably fast pace. This is very promising, especially for countries that have a federated state structure.

Work with Russian expats overseas occupies a special place on the diplomatic agenda. Experts estimate that there are about 500,000 Russians living in Latin America, most of whom are in Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay.

Russian people first appeared in Paraguay following the October 1917 Revolution. Most of them were White Army officers who had emigrated from Russia. And most of these went on to serve in the Paraguayan Army, helping to make it combat-ready. The association of descendants of Russian emigres enjoys an exalted reputation among Paraguayans.

Our compatriots play a noticeable role in Mexico. Their numbers have increased from practically zero in the 1970s to about 15,000 now. They hold good positions in the tourist industry, teach at universities, take part in research projects and have the support of the local authorities.

Without a doubt, Latin America is increasingly emerging as a power centre in the world. Its role and importance, both as a whole and as individual countries, will only grow over time. This opens up additional opportunities for expanding ties with the region, a region that holds out great promise in many ways.


Vadim: My question is a bit off-topic. Many students want to specialize in international affairs because they seek adventures. But diplomatic service is above all routine day-to-day work. How is a diplomat’s typical day structured?

Valery Morozov: There is no shortage of adventures in diplomatic work. As for day-to-day duties, first of all, for the foreign service workers the main thing is knowing foreign languages (one or two, still better three), at least the languages of the country in which you specialize. Diplomats begin their day by reading the newspapers. You have to understand the language and take relevant information from printed media and television, which accounts for about 70–80 per cent of all useful information. Second, live contact with people is one of the main sources of information. You have to learn to build up relationships with people. To carry out effective work, you can’t be indifferent to the host country – you have to understand and love it.

What makes Latin America interesting is that its citizens are emotional rather than rational. When you make contact with a person, that person appears to be listening to you. But at the same time, he or she is testing you at the emotional level (like an X-ray machine). If they detect falsehood, they will maintain contacts with you, but they will not trust you. Rather than deceiving, it is better to say nothing at all, and then there is a better chance that you will establish a rapport. As they say, a diplomat is someone who thinks three times before saying nothing. In that respect, Latin American people differ from European and Asian people. If a Latin American person feels and believes that you are not lying, that you are frank with them, they will become good friends with you and, consequently, a source of information.

Information can be obtained anywhere. For example, you can learn about the situation in the country at the local marketplace. That is where you can feel the economic atmosphere in the city and in the country.

Establishing a trusting relationship is hard work. Once contact has been established you must prepare and think through what you want to do next and discuss things with your superior, that is, with your mentor. That is the second part of your work. The third part is analysing events. Simply reporting events is the business of the numerous news agencies (TASS, Russia Today, etc.) But news correspondents, agencies and the internet will not provide you with analytical information. Your task is to analyse the information and send it to the Centre. Thus, the embassy sends analytical information prepared on the basis of known information to the Centre. Your analysis helps to predict further developments. This is a difficult but necessary job. In fact, it is a job you are expected to do. But in general this is a very taxing job.

A few words about participating in the events in the host country. It is important not to stay away from them. On the contrary, you have to take part in them, although sometimes this can get very tiresome: three to five events a day and you have to make it to each one of them in order to know what is happening and understand what makes the country tick. And of course every event is an opportunity to make new contacts.

Working in a foreign country, you should always seek to obtain useful and interesting information that can help your country (defending its position, informing it, etc.). A great deal depends on your ability to make a forecast and write it up. Working with information and working with people is probably the main thing. To cope with these challenges, you have to know international law, the country’s history, its constitutional structure and the specific features of local laws. For example, a consul has to know the country’s private law in order to be able to defend the interests of our citizens. As a rule, in any country the court always takes the side of its own citizens. So it is extremely difficult to defend the interests of our citizens on foreign soil.

D. Minasyan: First of all, I would like to thank you for your speech. It was very interesting and I for one learned many new things. My question is about BRICS. Do you see that organization expanding in the near future?

VM: BRICS was created specifically for consultations on international issues. There was a fear that it would supplant existing international structures, but that did not happen. We can say that BRICS has found its niche and has more or less settled into its role. It has created 20–23 working groups, it holds meetings and every summit becomes more substantive and concrete than the previous one.

As of today, there are several candidates to join the group: Mexico, Argentina, and to the best of my knowledge, Turkey, Indonesia and Egypt. However, the decision has been made against expanding the group at the present time, because the BRICS model has not been perfected. There are fears that if the group expands, it may become amorphous and unwieldy. So far, it comprises leading powers, each representing its own region. That is enough to work out common positions, including within the G20. I repeat, BRICS is an advisory body and its task is to hammer out common positions on the main economic, political and international issues. BRICS may expand in the medium or long term. I have named the candidate countries.

A. Bezukhova: Thank you very much for your report. Can you tell me how a diplomat’s career begins? What stages do you have to go through to become a diplomat?

VM: How does a career begin? You graduate from the institute and take up your job at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, our main agency in charge of foreign policy. At the Ministry, you will have a mentor. Or it could be the head of the unit where you are appointed. There are several units: the territorial units deal with relations with specific regions, while the functional units deal with specific problems (for example, the legal department, the international organizations department, the consular department, etc.). You begin your work with the smallest things. First, you learn to write notes, reply to queries coming from the embassy and other agencies and select information. Gradually, you are given more and more complicated tasks: writing memos, working with classified materials, preparing responses to political letters, political reports, etc., coming from the embassy, writing encrypted telegrams that contain succinct and brief information on what is happening in this or that country.

Your starting position is that of an assistant. The following steps are an attaché, third secretary, second secretary, first secretary, etc., counsellor, envoy and ambassador. You have to go through all these stages and as you go up the ladder you will gain experience. You need corresponding experience to work competently with a partner or an interlocutor: in order to correctly write papers, you have to amass experience in replying to and working with such papers. Every stage takes about three years. My advice to you is: begin with the little things.

Yelena: I am not a student, but I enjoyed your lecture. I have a question: what are the prospects for relations between Russia and Latin America, notably the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Mexico in the sphere of tourism?

VM: These countries are interested in the inflow of tourists, and we send a large number of tourists to those countries. For example, the Dominican Republic hosts about 120,000 Russian visitors every year, while Cuba receives around 80,000. There was a time when Cuba was the leader, but now the Dominican Republic has outstripped it. As the Mexican Ambassador told me in 2014, about 112,000 Russian tourists visited Mexico that year, mainly the city of Cancun. Transaero and Aeroflot organized direct flights there, which turned out to be very convenient and facilitated the trips. In the past, you had to make at least two or three transfers to reach Latin America. Now our powerful planes fly from Moscow and St. Petersburg to the Dominican Republic and Cuba (they land at Varadero). True, the situation has worsened due to the fall of the rouble and trips have become more expensive. Tourism was at its peak when the dollar cost 30–35 roubles here, and now it costs 65–66 roubles. Having said that, the Mexican side is ready to offer preferential terms for Russian tourists.

I would like to draw your attention to an interesting phenomenon. Tourism began to develop rapidly here in the late 1990s. However, following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, the United States introduced visa restrictions, fearing that terrorists could penetrate the United States through the poorly guarded Mexican border (3000km long). They wanted Mexico to put Russia on the black list and immediately we had problems. Before that, Russian tourists could travel to Mexico without having to obtain a visa first. After the new restrictions were implemented, the process of getting a tourist visa to Mexico took about a month. Of course, nobody was prepared to wait a month, and the tourist flow to the country dropped dramatically.

In 2006, a hurricane devastated the very popular holiday resort of Cancun. Many Russians, Canadians, Americans and Europeans were on holiday there at the time. A lot of money was needed to restore the city. The governor staged a reception for a group of ambassadors in order to give them an update on how work was going and how the famous holiday resort was being restored. We are sitting and talking and suddenly a Mexican fellow comes up and asks: “Are you the Russian ambassador?”

“Yes, I am”, I reply.

Then he asks: “Why have Russian tourists stopped flying to Mexico?”

“They haven’t stopped flying. They are still coming here, but the problem is that you have imposed restrictions. Show me a tourist who is prepared to wait a month or a month-and-a-half while his passport is at the Mexican embassy? During this time he may visit five, seven or ten countries and have a good time there.” I asked the Mexican why he was so interested in Russian tourists. He explained:

“I own the best jewellery shops in Cancun. When Russian tourists were here, they bought everything up and I had to order new stock every three weeks. Now I can’t get rid of my stock in a year.”

The Secretary of Tourism in the previous government was a pleasant woman called Gloria Guevara Manzo. She came to Russia and paid special attention to cooperation with our country in the tourism industry. According to Mexican side, Russian tourists in Cancun spent more money every day than all the other tourists from Latin America combined. Of course there was demand for us, we were at the top of the list, sharing top place with the Brazilians, followed by the Canadians, Americans and Spaniards. In short, we were very welcome in Mexico as tourists.

Eventually, we managed to get the visa restrictions lifted. Today, you can fly to Mexico without even going to the embassy. Those who have travelled or have heard about it from others know that you can get an electronic visa without leaving Krasnoyarsk and fly direct to Cancun, Acapulco or wherever. There are no restrictions on tourism. As I said, the Mexican side may introduce some preferences for Russians, though they are unlikely to switch to rouble settlements like the Turks and Egyptians tried to do. Perhaps package holidays will be cheaper. But flying with our airlines will still remain a problem. As far as I know, Transaero, which discovered the Dominican Republic and became the main carrier of our tourists, is in a crisis.

I think there is a future, only you have to wait until the economic situation gets back to normal. Holidays to the Dominican Republic are very cheap. European people say it is cheaper for them to go to the Dominican Republic than to Spain. In Germany, you might as well be able to get a package deal at a chemist’s. The Dominicans have switched to the “all inclusive” principle (including national beverages), just like the Mexicans did in Cancun back in the 1980s, and then the Cubans. If you buy an “all inclusive” package, you don’t have to pay for anything. You can go to any bars and restaurants and get served as part of that package. You can go to the beach and not return to your room. This is a very good arrangement, and it works.

I have to say that the Dominicans have turned some sugar plantations over to hotel builders in order to attract tourists. Sugar is highly priced, but tourism is more profitable. Every year, 500,000 tourists come here from Germany. Similar amounts of people come from Canada and Latin America. Around 120,000 Russian tourists visit the country every year, which is also a considerable number. I think tourism will bounce back, because it is a very attractive region.

Incidentally, from the information I got from the ambassador, the Mexican Secretariat of Tourism has opened an office in Moscow in order to attract Russian tourists. They consider us to be potential sources of income.

D. Minasyan: One more question about BRICS. What is the status of cooperation in healthcare among these countries?

VM: There are working groups within BRICS on healthcare, telecommunications, education, finance, science, etc. The groups are currently working and commissions have regular sessions. BRICS had a meeting on the development of communications technologies in Khanty-Mansisyk in 2014 and again this year. It is likely to become a permanent venue. We welcome the desire to have a permanent forum in this particular sphere – new communication technologies. The same goes for healthcare. I don’t have detailed information at hand, but I know for a fact that there is cooperation among working groups, as well as among the health ministries of the BRICS countries. The task is to shift cooperation within BRICS from the consultative format to the implementation of specific projects. And I should remind you that the main task of BRICS is to coordinate efforts in international politics, especially in the financial sphere.

BRICS is probably the only efficiently working organization which prepares general projects and plays the leading role in the G20. It combines the potential of China, India, Russia, Brazil and, of course, BRICS has a voice that people listen to. Reform of the International Monetary Fund is currently on the agenda. We are working to ensure that developing countries have a greater share and more votes within the IMF, so that decisions are taken in the interests of these countries as well, and not only in the interests of developed powers.

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