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Russia moving towards greater pragmatism in relations with Latin America, says expert

Russian top diplomat Sergei Lavrov’s current tour that includes visits to Cuba, Venezuela and Mexico means that he's coming to the region for the second time in a year, the expert recalled

MOSCOW, February 6. /TASS/. Russia is building more and more pragmatic relations with Latin American countries meaning that bilateral cooperation is preserved despite the differences on a number of global political issues, Director of the Institute for Latin American Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences and expert of the Valdai International Discussion Club Dmitry Razumovsky told TASS on Thursday on the occasion of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s tour around Latin America.

"Considering Russia’s positions in Latin America, we are definitely shifting towards a more pragmatic position in bilateral ties with most countries. A clear example is Brazil and Argentina, while Colombia is a good example," he emphasized. "We have evident differences with Brazil and Colombia about understanding the situation in Venezuela. These differences were successfully separated from the rest of the whole complex of bilateral relations."

The expert underlined that Moscow and Bogota’s striving for pragmatic cooperation in spite of difference of opinion on a number of political issues was clearly manifested in last year’s visit of Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov to Colombia and a reciprocal visit of the top Colombian diplomat to Russia where he held a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.

Lavrov’s current tour that includes visits to Cuba, Venezuela and Mexico means that he is coming to the region for the second time in a year, the expert recalled. At the same time, Washington that traditionally regards Latin America as its sphere of interest did not react in any way to these trips because "it is not a top visit that can provoke a bitter reaction of the US."

According to Razumovsky, the desire of all sides to build constructive cooperation bypassing issues that incite differences can be clearly traced at the meeting of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) leaders during the G20 summit in Japan’s Osaka last June. Then, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro distanced himself from discussing the Venezuelan crisis with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. Venezuela has not been raised at the meeting at all but the sides debated "a large set of pragmatic issues", the expert pointed out.

"We see a certain contradiction in perception. On the one hand, Realpolitik regarding most countries is becoming more and more ideologized - we are managing to build constructive relations and maintain larger part of cooperation with countries that used to stick to left wing camp where right wing leaders rose to power. Those are, for instance, Brazil or Argentina when Mauricio Macri was president there," he added. "Most joint projects, maybe apart from a narrow set of military contracts, was preserved, while even new ones were signed."

Situation in Venezuela

The expert emphasized that the Russian foreign minister’s visit should not be tied to developments in Venezuela. He believes that statements put forward by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying that Russia’s support is the key factor that preserves stability of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s power are not fully reflect the real situation there.

"The key factor behind this stability is still the army’s position and consensus, stability in the ruling elite, lack of division despite the continuing attempts to play the card of internal disagreements of the Chavists," he continued. "Saying that Maduro is staying in power only because of Russia is to excessively simplify the situation."

According to Razumovsky, the United States itself recognizes the tactics of swift power change in Venezuela through backing opposition leader Juan Guaido have failed. Meanwhile, Washington continues to advance its hardline policies against Venezuela. "The US seriously hopes that keeping in place the unprecedented sanction pressure will sooner or later lead to regime change and incite a new wave of protests," the expert concluded.