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Latin American leaders react to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine

Following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, leaders from across Latin America and the Caribbean have been giving their reactions.

(CN) — With Russia launching a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, international leaders are reacting to the escalating conflict in eastern Europe, including those in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Russia has mixed relations with countries in the region, with most of them publicly expressing criticism of Russia’s use of military force, the largest attack on a European state since World War II.

However, the language has been milder compared with their North American and European counterparts, with few countries referring to an “invasion” and more emphasis put on the rejection of armed force and the need for diplomatic resolution.

Mexico’s leftist president Andrés Manuel López Obrador (known as AMLO) stated in his daily press conference: “We are going to continue to promote dialogue and not the use of force, of an invasion. We are not in favor of any war.”

Colombia’s conservative president Ivan Duque rejected the attacks against Ukraine. “The events threaten the sovereignty of Ukraine and put the lives of thousands of people at risk,” he stated in a tweet, and that it is “contrary to international law and the U.N. charter.”

In Chile, outgoing president, Sebastián Piñera and president-elect, Gabriel Boric both condemned Russia’s military aggression, with the former stating on Twitter: "Chile condemns Russia's armed aggression and its violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity; these acts violate international law and threaten innocent lives, international peace and security.”

Incoming leftist president Boric, who will also oversee the country’s constitutional assembly, stated that: “Russia has opted for war as a means to resolve conflicts, from Chile we condemn the invasion of Ukraine, the violation of its sovereignty and the illegitimate use of force.”

Uruguay’s center-right president Luis Lacalle Pou rejected the actions, describing them as “contrary to international law and those of the U.N.,” which was echoed by Paraguay’s conservative president, Mario Abdo Benítez, saying: “We urge the aggressors to stop their actions and call for dialogue for peace.”

Meanwhile in Ecuador, center-right president Guillermo Lasso condemned “Russia’s decision to launch a military operation and the violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Over in Bolivia, there is yet no public statement from socialist president Luis Arce. However, a statement from the foreign ministry declared that Bolivia “is following with concern the situation generated in Ukraine and regrets that the lack of dialogue and understanding has caused a further escalation of the conflict.”

His socialist counterpart in Peru, Pedro Castillo, called for conflict to be channeled diplomatically rather than with bullets, while its foreign ministry released a statement that expressed “its deep concern about the evolution of events in Ukraine, rejects the use of force and reiterates its call to cease all hostilities and violations of the ceasefire in Ukraine.”

In South America’s largest economy, Brazil, president Jair Bolsonaro released a statement that was directed at Brazilians in Ukraine. “I am fully committed to the effort to protect and assist Brazilians who are in Ukraine,” read his statement on Twitter. Earlier in the day, the foreign ministry released a brief statement, calling for an “immediate suspension of hostilities and the start of negotiations.”

Across the border in Argentina, center-left president Alberto Fernández “deeply regrets the escalation of war” and called on Russia to “put an end to the actions undertaken and for all parties involved to return to the dialogue table.” Earlier, its foreign ministry published a statement in which it “makes its strongest rejection of the use of armed force” and that “lasting solutions are only achieved through dialogue and mutual commitments that ensure essential peaceful coexistence.”

Putin has found some support in the region, with the leaders of Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua all publicly backing the Russian regime.

On Wednesday, the president of the Duma, Viacheslav Volodin, met with Cuban officials in Havana to discuss strengthening bilateral ties. Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel is yet to make a public statement regarding the invasion, but its foreign minister, Bruno Rodríguez, affirmed Russia’s “right to defend itself” while “the U.S. has been threatening Russia for weeks and manipulating the international community.” Esteban Lazo, president of the Cuban National Assembly, added that “NATO must pay attention to the requirements of the Russian Federation on security guarantees.”

In Central America, Nicaragua president Daniel Ortega expressed his support for Putin on Monday, being one of the first countries to recognize the independence of the Russian-controlled Ukraine regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. On Thursday, Volodin was in Nicaragua where he said that Ukrainians “should not fear” Russian military operations as its aim was only “demilitarization."

Before the invasion, speaking in a televised broadcast, Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro said: “Venezuela is with Putin, it is with Russia, it is with the courageous and just causes of the world,” before adding its full support for “President Vladimir Putin in the defense of Russia's peace, in the defense of peace in that region.”

Late on Thursday night, Maduro released a statement that read: “Venezuela rejects the aggravation of the crisis in Ukraine as a result of the violation of the Minsk agreements by NATO,” adding that this has led to “strong threats against Russia, its territorial integrity and sovereignty.” 

Russia has been one of Venezuela’s closest allies as Maduro battles domestic and international pressure to remove him from power. Maduro’s show of solidarity with Putin comes as Russia continues to quickly accumulate international sanctions principally from the U.S., U.K., and the E.U.

Throughout the 21st century, Russia has looked to strengthen its ties in Latin America and the Caribbean, particularly with countries that hold stronger anti-U.S. sentiments.

Although trade relations with Russia and Latin America remains minimal, expanding its presence across the region is one of Russia’s top foreign policy priorities, according to the Center for the Study of Global Economic Futures.

In the last month, both presidents of Brazil and Argentina visited Russia. During Bolsonaro’s 3-day visit he declared solidarity with Russia while during Fernández’s trip, he stated: “I am determined that Argentina stops being so dependent on the IMF and the United States and opens itself up to other opportunities, and I believe that Russia has a very important position.”

Fernández added that: “We have to see how Argentina can become a gateway to Russia in Latin America, so that Russia enters in a more decisive way.” In the meeting, Fernández thanked Putin for the success of the Sputnik V Covid vaccine in Argentina, which was the first country in Latin America to receive it.

Despite the general criticism shared by most Latin American governments, none has felt it appropriate to add to the list of international sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. And with Russia’s global list of allies short in length, this may leave a small amount of space for Russia to recuperate and strengthen its ties in parts of Latin America. 

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