After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the US turned its attention from Latin America as it focused on terrorism and threats from the Middle East. At the same time, over the past decade Latin American democracy has flourished and the global economy shifted, with Latin America no longer looking just north to the US for leadership and investment, but to India, China, and Russia. China surpassed the US as Brazil’s biggest trading partner in 2009.
Most of these relationships are economic in nature among emerging economies. If Russia, for example, once eyed Cuba to buoy its political project close to the American border, today it is inking energy deals and selling arms in Latin America because it finds willing partners and purchasers there.
“Russia is going to sell all kinds of arms to Venezuela, not because [Venezuelan President] Hugo Chávez is saying he is socialist. It’s because he has money to pay for it,” says Alex Sanchez, a senior research fellow at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs.
The flurry of investment in countries ranging from Venezuela to Bolivia helps to further undermine US global dominance in the region, a scenario that many leaders welcome today. Chief among them is Mr. Chávez, who just won another six-year term in office, and his allies including President Evo Morales in Bolivia and President Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua.