Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Soviet penetration of Latin America

First Published: Unity, Vol. 3, No. 6, March 14-27, 1980.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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For hundreds of years Latin America has been coveted by all the expansionist powers, making it a battleground for colonial and imperialist contention. In the 1800’s, when the Spanish colonialists had been nearly driven out by the Latin American independence movements, France, England and the U.S. wasted no time in laying claim to parts of the region. But it was the aggressive and rising U.S. who declared Latin America its private domain. The Caribbean became known as an “American lake” and the rest of the continent “America’s backyard.”

Today the U.S. continues to dominate much of Latin America, but due to the decline of U.S. imperialism and the struggles of the Latin American people for democracy and independence, U.S. hegemony has been weakened. The growing independence of the Latin American countries however is being endangered by the expansionism of an aggressive and ascending new imperialist power, the Soviet Union.

Soviet penetration into Latin America is quite widespread and takes place economically, militarily and politically. Moscow’s aim is nothing less than to plunder Latin America’s resources and develop a relationship of dependence upon the Soviet Union.

Economic “aid” with 1,001 strings

Soviet economic penetration into Latin America increased sharply during the 1970’s. The Soviet Union took advantage of many Latin American countries’ desires to become more independent of the U.S., and offered long-term, low interest loans to secure economic agreements.

Soviet loans are similar to loans from U.S. banks in that they carry stipulations aimed at enforcing a dependent relationship. Most frequent are terms requiring the repayment of loans in agricultural products and raw materials, or through purchasing Soviet made equipment and machinery.

This is in line with the Soviet imperialist theory of “international division of labor” whereby the third world provides the raw materials while the Soviet Union provides the industry and technology. This is the same logic the U.S. used to justify keeping the third world undeveloped and dependent on U.S. goods.

Argentina is a case in point. In 1974, Moscow granted the Videla regime $600 million credit in Russian equipment for hydroelectric projects. The credit was on very favorable terms – 10 years to repay, at the low interest rate of 4.5%. The conditions: the loan must be repaid in agricultural products, and large numbers of Soviet technical personnel must be used in the building of these projects.

Thus several ties are made. The Argentines are dependent upon Soviet equipment. The role of Argentina as a producer of agricultural goods is reinforced, and Argentina becomes more dependent upon the Soviet market.

Lastly, Soviet technicians actually control production, and they are bossy and arrogant. In addition, the Soviet technicians gain inroads into the state apparatus, as they usually play an active role in negotiating new technological agreements, and they train local technicians and engineers.

Since 1974, the Argentine government has negotiated several commercial, financial and technological agreements with Moscow. Today, over 12% of Argentina’s trade is with the Soviet Union and the COMECON (Soviet-dominated economic bloc) countries. Other examples:

• A $50 million loan made to Uruguay in 1976 to build a dam was repayable in raw materials only.

• In 1976, Moscow loaned Brazil $19 million to build a power plant. The next year, Brazil was told it could sell the Soviets 75,000 tons of coffee only //Brazil agreed to buy more Russian machinery for the power plant.

• Soviet aid to Peru is based on the condition that joint Peruvian-Soviet enterprises are set up. These joint enterprises depend on Soviet technology, market and capital.

The Soviet Union makes little effort to hide its desire to dominate Latin America and control its rich resources. In the first 1978 issue of the Soviet magazine America Latina, the author Serguei Seminov whistfully referred to the old Nazi dream to “transform the wet pampas (plains) of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay, the central valley and the region of German settlement, into the main world production center of beef and cereals.”

Wooing the military

The Soviet Union has also become the major arms supplier to Latin America. By 1977, the USSR had become the number one supplier of tanks and armored vehicles and surpassed the U.S. in weapons sales to Latin American countries. Most Soviet military aid comes complete with Soviet or Cuban advisors and training courses in the Soviet Union or Cuba.

Moscow has made concerted efforts to influence key sectors of the Latin American population. Soviet academician Gueorgui Mirski claimed that the “main and most difficult question is how to influence the military.” Noting the elitism of this sector, Soviet analyst Sergio Mikoyan wrote that the U.S.S.R. must “learn to take advantage of this elitism.” The Soviet tactic is to work on nationalist officers who oppose U.S. domination.

This is the same approach the Soviets generally use in trying to influence the Latin American intelligentsia, press and popular movements. The Soviets promote themselves as the “natural ally” of national liberation against the U.S.

Fifth column

The revisionist communist parties are an important source of pro-Soviet support in Latin America, not only within the popular movements but in ruling circles as well. A number of elements in Latin American governments have close ties with the pro-Moscow parties. In Argentina, the financial group of Holding Pecerre handles the finances of the Communist Party of Argentina (CPA). At one point a representative of the CPA held a position in the Ministry of the Economy, and the revisionists still have considerable influence in the current Videla regime. Members of the revisionist party of Bolivia hold key posts in the mining sector.

Within the mass movements, the revisionist parties, which in the 1960’s and early 70’s were widely discredited due to their reformism and pacifism, are now being newly invigorated due to ties with Cuba, Viet Nam and the efforts of Soviet propaganda.

Cuba remains one of the chief vehicles for Soviet infiltration into the liberation movements. Utilizing the prestige of the Cuban revolution, the Cubans offer “internationalist” aid, aimed at bringing Latin America into the Soviet orbit. Following the Cuba-backed 1979 coup in the Caribbean country of Grenada, Cuba immediately sent teachers, doctors and technicians, who were quickly followed by a Soviet trade delegation. Cuba is also trying to subvert the Nicaraguan revolution by providing “aid.” (See UNITY, February 15-28, 1980.) The political impact of these developments is already evident; in January when the United Nations voted on the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan, Grenada voted to oppose the resolution condemning the invasion, and Nicaragua abstained.

The Soviets will go to great lengths to gain more influence in Latin America, including fanning up contradictions between Latin American countries in order to promote instability, hurt Latin American unity, and convince various countries of the need for more Soviet military aid. Moscow has tried to stir up border conflicts left over from the days of colonialism, such as the one between Peru, Bolivia and Chile. Currently the Soviet Union is trying to fan up a dispute between Chile and Argentina over the Beagle Channel, rather than promote a peaceful settlement of the issue.

“Ni yanquis, ni rusos”

But the peoples of Latin America are learning that the Soviet Union is no friend, but another superpower, and that the anti-U.S. struggle must guard against Soviet infiltration via Cuba or via other tentacles of the Soviet military, political or economic machine. A new slogan is being heard in many Latin American countries: “¡Ni yanquis, ni rusos, los dos son intrusos!”– “Neither Yanquis nor Russians, they are both intruders!”