East Germany's 'Afrika Korps' sets its sights on Latin America
East Germany is displaying a lively new diplomatic relations with South American countries other than Cuba and Chile prior to 1973. But there is no sign so far that its "afrika Korps" is moving on from Ethiopia and South Yemen to establish security and secret police in a Nicaragua or even a Grenada.
This is the finding of Joseph Dolezal, a foreign policy analyst in the West German Ministry for Inner-German Relations. For about two years, writes Dolezal in the September issue of DDR (German Democratic Republic) Reports, there's been an "upswing" in East Berlin's Latin American policy. This seems to be a response to the increase in indigenous resistance to military dictatorships in South America.
East Germany is most active in nations it regards as likeminded, actually or potentially. It maintains one of the largest embassies in Havana. State and party chief Erich Honecker used the occasion of a Cuban visit last June to sign a new friendship and cooperation treaty with his "brother land." East Germany gives Cuba development assistance and provides military and civilian advisers. There are close links between the two parties, governments, and various youth and other social organizations.
In last summer's East German-Cuban treaty, a key element was the pledge to support the peoples of Latin America in their fight against imperialism.
When "anti-imperialist" forces do triumph in South America, East Berlin is quick to approve. It opened diplomatic relations with the Nicaraguan Sandinistas the day after they overthrew the Somoza regime in July 1979. Last March it received a high-ranking Nicaraguan delegation with full fanfare -- and with a bilateral agreement on trade, cultural, and consular cooperation. (For its part Nicaragua hedged its bets, sending its foreign minister to West Germany in August.)
Recent East German travel diplomacy has also included a September 1979 tour of Nicaragua, Columbia, and Ecuador by Foreign Minister Oskar Fischer; a visit to Mexico last June by Politburo member Gunter Mittag and an economic delegation; and a delegation trip last August to Grenada (where Soviet and Cuban , but not East German, advisers have been active since 1979).
The Central Committee of the Socialist Unity [Communist] Party put its imprimatur on the new continent in December 1979 by declaring that "numerous events attest that Latin America is experiencing a new upswing of national and social liberation struggles." As evidence it cited not only the Nicaraguan revolution but also such things as the replacement of military dictatorships in Ecuador and Peru with civilian governments and the growing autonomy movement in Puerto Rico.
The only South American countries East Germany does not have diplomatic relations with are Chile, Paraguay, Guatemala, El Salvador, and some Caribbean islands.