Applauded in the West, the Zelenski effect does not work in Latin America

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has become accustomed to being the guest star at any Western international summit. Often by surprise. Either in person or virtually. But at the summit that begins today in Brussels between the EU and the Latin American and Caribbean countries, neither he nor he is on the agenda, nor is he expected.

Zelenski's attendance would be a major surprise. The Ukrainian leader expressly asked the EU to be invited to be able to personally explain to the American leaders his vision as an attacked country and convince them to support Ukraine without the ambiguities that have been seen from the other side of the Atlantic.

Russia produces fertilizers for the agricultural industry of Argentina, Mexico, Peru or Brazil

However, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac) said no to the presence of Zelenski. The Celac presidency currently rests with Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, a Caribbean island state that is a member of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), an organization controlled in practice by Chavista Venezuela, one of Russia's outright allies. In the continent. Although, beyond this data, it is impossible for the veto of Zelenski to have occurred without the approval of the three largest countries in the region, Brazil, Mexico and Argentina, all with sufficient reasons not to get too involved in the war. in Ukraine.

In addition, Celac did not want the Ukrainian conflict to appear in the final declaration of the summit, which will be made public tomorrow, according to the drafts exchanged in the previous weeks. It is probable that in the end some mention of the war on European territory will be included, although it might not go much further than the reference included in the text approved by the Ibero-American Summit in March in the Dominican Republic, where Zelenski was not present either. So, despite pressure from Spain, Ukraine was not even mentioned in the final declaration, which simply called for a "complete, just and lasting peace throughout the world based on the Charter of the United Nations, including the principles of sovereign equality." and territorial integrity of the states”.

The reasons for understanding this Latin American coldness regarding Ukraine are historical, but also pragmatic. On the one hand, the long tradition of non-aligned countries that exists in the American continent; on the other, anti-imperialist sentiment towards the US and anti-colonialist sentiment towards Europe. This means that, despite the fact that in practice relations with Washington and Brussels are fluid, with some exceptions, the region always takes advantage of the summits to mark territory and remember those principles.

The latter is what happened at the Summit of the Americas last year in Los Angeles (USA), where several leaders refused to go because of the White House veto of the three authoritarian countries of the continent – ​​Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba – despite the fact that most regional leaders already criticize these governments and their policies that violate human rights.

The main pragmatic motive of Latin Americans is of a commercial nature and carries a lot of weight. Russia produces the fertilizers on which the important agricultural industry of Argentina, Mexico, Peru and Brazil depends.

Costa Rica is the only country in the region that is applying sanctions against Russia

Long before the pandemic, the Kremlin had already shown its intentions to follow in China's footsteps and increase its influence in the region, and had originally focused on supporting Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. The health crisis paved the way for Russian leader Vladimir Putin for vaccine diplomacy, as did Beijing. The Russian antidote Sputnik V was key to the immunization of Argentina, when few of its neighbors had access to the covid cure. Argentine President Alberto Fernández thanked Putin during an untimely visit to Moscow, a few days before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, something that the then president of Brazil, the far-right Jair Bolsonaro, also did.

Costa Rica is the only country in the region that is applying the sanctions against Russia dictated by the US and the EU. However, and despite the lukewarm support for Ukraine, most Latin American countries have formally remained within the global consensus that blames Russia for the war, since they have supported the four resolutions voted so far at the UN. In these resolutions, only the usual suspects –Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela– voted against or abstained, while Bolivia and El Salvador –with their increasingly authoritarian president, Nayib Bukele– abstained in some of those votes at the UN .

On the other hand, in January, the head of the US Southern Command, Laura Richardson, asked six countries on the continent that possess old Soviet weapons to send them to Kyiv in exchange for receiving new US-made material. Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and Chile, governed by progressive presidents, rejected the proposal to preserve their non-interference, while Peru and Ecuador initially studied it. Lima came very close to sending the Ukrainian armed forces missiles, howitzers and armored vehicles, while Quito considered donating MI-17 helicopters. Finally, both countries, installed in political crises, discarded it.

An optimistic aspect of the summit is the confirmed presence of Lula da Silva

An optimistic aspect of the summit that begins today in Brussels is the confirmed presence of the Brazilian leader, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who a few months ago tried to set himself up as a mediator between Russia and Ukraine, with a peace plan that never materialized. However, the disagreement between Lula and Zelensky - who considered the leftist leader very sympathetic to Putin - at the G-7 summit in Hiroshima in May, only made the Ukrainian folder even more of a drag on relations between the EU and Latin America, taking into account the prestige and influence of Lula among the progressive governments of the region.

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