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Diplomat: No competition between Moscow, Washington in Latin America

In early February, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that Washington was concerned over Russia’s growing presence in Latin America
Russian Foreign Ministry Mikhail Japaridze/TASS
Russian Foreign Ministry
© Mikhail Japaridze/TASS

MOSCOW, February 16. /TASS/. Russia does not compete with anyone in Latin America as the region’s potential is enough for it to deal with all the international players, Director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Department of Latin America Alexander Shchetinin said in an interview with TASS.

"You know, we don’t want to compete with anyone," he said in response to a question. "We have our own agenda," the senior diplomat added. "We compete neither with the Americans nor with the Chinese. Everyone has their own direction, methods and capabilities," Shchetinin pointed out, adding that it would be wrong to compare those methods and capabilities.

According to him, Russia has its interests in the region, including trade and economic ones. "We offer our technologies to Latin America, which first and foremost concern the energy industry, biotechnology, aircraft and helicopter construction, transport infrastructure and information technologies," he said. "We are sure that there are possibilities to boost our cooperation with all countries of the region," Shchetinin said.

The Russian diplomat noted that the Latin American market and possibilities were wide enough to give chances to everyone. "However, such a diverse agenda affects the America for Americans principle and the United States is unlikely to be happy about it," he added.

In early February, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that Washington was concerned over Russia’s growing presence in Latin America. He also criticized Moscow for selling weapons to countries who had an unfriendly attitude towards the US.

The US has been hammering the idea of Moscow’s election meddling into the heads of people in Latin America, he went on. "Indeed, we can see all these bogus stories being brought up as if on cue in the countries where elections are scheduled to be held later in the year, including Mexico, Brazil and Colombia," the senior Russian diplomat said, adding that it was not Latin Americans behind those stories. "Attempts are being made to hammer this idea into the heads of people in Latin America. It is perfectly clear, no one is hiding that it is US officials who talk about it the most," Shchetinin noted.

According to him, "needless to say that it is a total disinformation." "It seems, someone very much dislikes our evolving relations, growing cooperation and mutual sympathy between the people of our countries," the diplomat said.

Shchetinin pointed out that Russia had been maintaining relations with all the countries of the region, regardless of their political color. "It is very important for us that regardless of their domestic policies, governments have a consensus on relations with Russia," he said.

"This is why we don’t plan to interfere - it goes against our principles and beliefs," Schetinin stressed. At the same time, in his words, Moscow understands that Latin Americans want elections to be open and fair. "In fact, if we talk about our benefits, this is what will benefit us, because democratic electoral processes are part of sustainable development," he concluded.

While on a visit to Mexico in early February, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson alleged that Russia may interfere in the Mexican presidential election. Earlier, US Democratic Senator Robert Menendez and Republican Senator Marco Rubio called on Tillerson to draw the Mexican authorities’ attention to Moscow’s alleged attempts at meddling in the election in the country, as well as in other countries of the region.

Moscow will boost military cooperation with all the countries in Latin America who are ready for that, he went on.

"Military cooperation is a common form of interaction between countries," Shchetinin said, commenting on Tillerson’s statements. "The main thing is that the development of such cooperation should not destroy the balance of power, raise tensions and fuel disputes between countries," he stressed.

According to the senior Russian diplomat, Moscow has a clear position on military cooperation with other states and its interaction with Latin American countries is based on the principles he mentioned. "This is why we are open, our approaches are open, they are based on the relevant intergovernmental agreements, which refer to no secret agenda. We will boost this kind of cooperation with all countries who are ready for that," Shchetinin stated.

While commenting on the US state secretary’s statement about Russia’s growing presence in the region, he said that Moscow "shares the view that Russia’s role in Latin America has been growing." "But we don’t agree with the conclusions that US diplomats drew from this fact," he added.

"Washington makes no secret that it believes the Monroe Doctrine to remain relevant. The doctrine will soon turn 200, which is a very respectable age. In the past 200 years, the world has changed but is seems that the America for Americans principle still stands," the Russian diplomat concluded.

Military base in Cuba

Russia is not considering the issue of establishing a military base in Cuba, he said.

"As for Cuba, this issue is not on the agenda. Our cooperation is developing in quite different directions," the diplomat said. "It turns out that our media have these concerns mostly, and publications are then circulated in foreign outlets," he noted. "So, we are provoking our partners to stoke this issue."

In 1967, a Soviet SIGINT center started operating in Cuba’s Lourdes in the southern suburb of Havana. In 2001, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared the liquidation of the center which was completed in August 2002.

The idea of restoring Russian military bases in the countries where they used to exist in the Soviet era was voiced by State Duma MPs. The Russian Defense Ministry also said they were looking into this issue. In the summer of 2014 Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that Moscow does not plan to restore the base in Cuba’s Lourdes.

Oil embargo

The United States will suffer economic damage if oil embargo against Venezuela is imposed, he went on.

Earlier this month, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that Washington was closer to deciding whether or not to impose sanctions on Venezuelan oil.

"As for Venezuela, let’s bear in mind that the issue at hand is a substantial part of oil supplies to the American market," Shchetinin said. He pointed out that this oil was refined at the enterprises focusing on Venezuelan oil, and "switching them to a different quality of hydrocarbons will be very difficult, if at all possible." "Therefore, it [the US] will inflict damage on itself," the diplomat stressed.

"In fact, attempts to exacerbate the internal political situation and strip Venezuela of a sizeable part of its income will only make the social situation worse and affect ordinary Venezuelans," he warned. "I believe that those who offer such ‘solutions’ should be aware of that."

Oil is the key export commodity for the Bolivarian Republic. Falling oil prices have led to the exacerbation of the socio-economic crisis and depreciation of national currency.