WASHINGTON, DC — China and Russia are “expanding aggressively” throughout the Western Hemisphere while pumping money and weapons into authoritarian regimes across Latin America, a move that poses a potential U.S. national security threat, warned Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).
During an event on Thursday hosted by the Heritage Foundation, Rubio, a member of the Senate committees on foreign relations and intelligence, noted that China and Russia are propping up dictatorships in Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua.
The senator said:
Russia and China, as we know, are opportunistic serial human rights abusers. So they have no qualms about supporting dictators anywhere in the world.
Moreover, their expanding presence in the region is a potential security threat … as the Chinese and Russians pump more money and weapons into [authoritarian] regimes, they hurt the stability of the region, but ultimately our national security potentially in other parts of the world.
The Florida Republican explained that U.S. rivals Russia and China are exploiting economic and military ties with repressive regimes in Latin America.
Sen. Rubio noted:
Both nations have been willing and able partners to some of the worst human rights abusers in the region. They prop up the [Raul] Castro and [Nicolas] Maduro regimes in Cuba and Venezuela, [respectively]. That’s the two governments that have oppressed their people into poverty. In Nicaragua, the Chinese are working on a shipping lane that could dwarf the Panama Canal potentially bringing new revenue, new power to a repressive [Daniel] Ortega regime.
The senator warned against the military equipment Russia has been selling throughout the region, particularly in Venezuela, described by Foreign Policy (FP) last year as a “rabidly anti-American failed” narco-state.
Rubio pointed out:
The Russians have sold, often at a discount, billions of dollars worth of arms to the worst regimes in the [Latin American] region. This is especially true of Venezuela.
If that country unravels, ask yourself what happens to its weapons stockpiles? All of those advanced Russian weapons are sitting in armories guarded by soldiers who are starving … How long before those Russian weapons are in the hands of a drug cartel or one of these mobs that the government has empowered in the streets? Or sold somewhere in the world to be used by a terrorist organization? Same groups that sell cocaine are more than willing to sell arms.
The U.S. government has repeatedly warned against the intensified operations by Iran and its narco-terrorist proxy Hezbollah in Latin America, the latter of which is heavily involved in the smuggling of cocaine and weapons from Latin America into the rest of the world.
Sen. Rubio’s comments on Thursday come soon after the Center for a Secure Free Society (SFS) think-tank warned that communist China is seeking to expand its military and political influence across Latin America.
Echoing the think-tank, the U.S. military has recently acknowledged that China’s activities in the Americas pose a threat to the United States.
Sen. Rubio urged the Trump administration to provide foreign assistance to pro-U.S. countries in Latin America.
“By supporting good governance, by supporting pro-American governments, by supporting leaders who are trying to the right thing, we can support democracy and the rule of law, and we can provide governments with an alternative,” he said.
Rubio argued that economic prosperity in Latin America would lead to a decreased flow of migrants into the U.S.