After Europe and Mideast, Pompeo brings anti-China lobby to Latin America
Published: Sep 17, 2020 09:47 PM

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo File photo: AFP

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's trip to four Latin American countries this week is another deplorable move aimed at further smearing and containing China, after his anti-China lobby in Europe and the Middle East, analysts said.  

The US State Department on Wednesday announced Pompeo's tour to Suriname, Guyana, Brazil and Colombia from September 17-21. Immediately after introducing Pompeo's trip, a State Department official attacked China's investment and projects in the area as "predatory loans and vanity projects" which threaten national security and sovereignty in Latin America countries. 

The department said Pompeo's tour is about economic and security cooperation, and combating COVID-19 in the name of "democracy in the Western Hemisphere."

Zhou Zhiwei, an expert on Latin American studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Thursday that the stigmatization against China is groundless and premeditated, and designed to compress China's overseas interests and increase US presence.

What the US really expects is to promote its version of frameworks similar to the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, analysts said. Through the US International Development Finance Corporation, Washington has approved funds for projects worth more than $800 million in Latin America in 2020, Reuters reported. 

Jiang Shixue, director of the Center for Latin American Studies at Shanghai University, told the Global Times that underdeveloped infrastructure caused by lack of investment is the main reason halting Latin America's development. The loans and investment from China help address its funding shortages.

Jiang said loans from China involve clauses like repayment and interest rates, which meet international norms and were agreed on by both sides. He added that Latin America's foreign debt surpassed $2 trillion in 2018, but less than seven percent were to China.

Colombia and Brazil are the two most important US allies in South America. But a Chinese company closed a subway construction deal in Colombia's capital Bogota in 2019. China is also Brazil's largest trade partner, according to data from China's Ministry of Commerce. Analysts believe China's recent efforts to assist Latin American countries in the fight against COVID-19 have also made the US feel a sense of crisis.

Deals cannot be reached only with China's efforts, but also by the other side's will and demand. The US' illogical accusation is contempt of Latin American countries' capacity for independent judgment and development, Zhou said. 

Some observers said the four destination countries are all close to Venezuela, which further exposed US attempts to create governing problems for Venezuelan authorities and meddle in regional affairs.

Zhou said China's main investment destinations in Latin America are Peru, Brazil and Ecuador. But given that Pompeo's visit is more about exploring the possibility of containing and smearing China, Chinese companies need to be aware of the risks of a tighter environment and higher investment costs.