China ‘Selling’ Authoritarianism in Latin America: Rep. Castro

‘That’s a very appealing prospect for a leader, to move from a president to in the direction of a king,’ the Texas lawmaker said.

Communist China is winning economic and political influence in Latin America by selling an authoritarian style of governance and surveillance technology to back it, according to one congressman.

The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) efforts to gain increased access to the Western hemisphere comes amid a broader effort by the regime to secure economic and political influence throughout the world, said Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas).

The CCP is massively investing in critical minerals, terrestrial space infrastructure, and deep water ports throughout the world, including in Latin America.

To counter the threat, he said, the United States must invest in building partnerships and supporting democratic norms, values, and institutions in Latin America.

“China is working hard to dethrone us, and Russia has been working hard to disrupt us,” Mr. Castro said during a Feb. 12 talk with the Atlantic Council think tank. “We have to have a strategy on countering those things.”

“We have to build up democracies on the government and political side. What China is selling is a different form of government.”

Despite Latin America’s long history of democratic movements, Mr. Castro said, many leaders were persuaded by the CCP’s offers of technology and trade deals that would give them more direct power over their people.

“What they’re selling to presidents and leaders of countries [is] an autocratic style of government, an authoritarian style of government that says we’re going to help you… to allow you to surveil your people, to crack down on freedom of expression, freedom of speech, freedom of the press,” Mr. Castro said.

“That’s a very appealing prospect for a leader, to move from a president to in the direction of a king, quite honestly.”

The United States must, in turn, “prioritize, invest, message, and align” with Latin American nations to ensure the continued preeminence of the U.S. in international relations and ensure the region’s general trend toward democratic types of government.

“We’ve got to give Latin America a greater stake in our partnership, and in their relationship with the United States of America.”

“That should be a whole-of-Congress and a whole-of-government focus over the next generation.”

Part of that effort, he said, would be the process of “nearshoring,” bringing supply chains back to the Western hemisphere and away from China.

To that end, the United States has already seen some success. Mr. Castro noted that Mexico recently overtook China as the United States’ largest trading partner, a status it had not held for more than two decades.

Similarly, Mr. Castro said, the United States should help to invest in and work with local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Latin America to build trust and regional infrastructure.

To date, he said, too much international development in the region had been “dominated by huge American NGOs” when local organizations may be better suited to a task.

 

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