While countries like Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico have condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela and President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua have been vocal in their support of President Vladimir Putin. Cuba’s Miguel Mario Díaz-Canel has also voiced his support for the invasion.
“The peace of Russia is the peace of the world, and we will defend the world’s peace,” Maduro said.
Ortega said, “We expressed to the people of Russia, we expressed to President Putin, our solidarity and our encouragement in this struggle.”
Ian Smith, Ph.D., director of the Graduate International Relations Program at St. Mary’s University, said Russia has become “the leader of the non-democratic world.” He said it is the model of electoral authoritarianism. “These states have elections, but we know they don’t really determine the outcomes,” Smith said.
Countries like Venezuela use Russia to finance projects within their oil industries. “Russia is a sort of a lender of with no conditions,” Smith said. “They don’t condition things on human rights and democracy.”
However, countries doing business with Russia, like Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba will have to work around the sanctions imposed after the invasion, Smith said.
For instance, Russia has become a minor arms dealer in Latin America, with its biggest customer being Venezuela. “That’s going to be tricky, though, because most trade with Latin American countries is through bank accounts that are denominated in either U.S. Dollars or Euros,” Smith said.
He said it could resort to cryptocurrency, “but that remains to be seen how much use, particularly these smaller, smaller states like Venezuela and Nicaragua.”
Smith said Russia’s power in Latin America is more symbolic than strategic, and in a sense, a thorn in America’s side “because this is the U.S.’s backyard.”