What Does Vladimir Putin Want from Latin America?
EspañolIn recent months, propaganda in favor of Russian President Vladimir Putin has intensified around the world. Latin America has been no exception. At the beginning of 2014, several Latin-American written media outlets dedicated column inches to praising Russia, its president, and — believe it or not — its economy.
It’s obvious that Putin’s authoritarian regime, and a Russia deprived of liberties, can only be praised out of ignorance — or by following orders.
In order to understand what Russia, with Putin at the helm, is trying to achieve in Latin America, it’s necessary to analyze the internal position of Putin within his country, and to objectively determine the real place of Russia within the world.
In 1999, when President Boris Yeltsin (1991-1999) renounced the Russian presidency and Putin “inherited” it, the former KGB agent immediately began the annihilation of the republican foundations of the government upon assuming power. The officially named Russian Federation is, today, scarcely a federation in any meaningful sense.
Putin, like Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin before him, has crossed the thin line that separates an authoritarian regime from a totalitarian one. In fact, the Russian premier is on the home stretch to achieving a full dictatorship, backed by the “support of the majority.” Through naked populism, and playing upon the anxieties of his weak-willed subjects in calling for the “restoration of Russian power in the world,” he is steadily realizing his unhealthy desire for absolute power.
It’s all too easy to manipulate public opinion when people are preoccupied with their own problems and know very little about such a faraway, exotic country.
Russia does the same with its neighbors. Agents sent and backed by the Kremlin are terrorizing the populations of Donetsk and Luhansk in south-east Ukraine, murdering those seeking to defend their homeland. Their actions have set loose a wave of kidnappings of journalists, politicians, businessmen, and observers from the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE), among others.
Neither a ramshackle referendum on the independence of these regions nor elections organized by their “governmental institutions” — organized by the terrorist impostors of the self-proclaimed “Governments of Donetsk and Luhansk” — have been able to convince the world that the activities of Putin and his clique are legitimate.
Yet, among Russians, Putin’s popularity ratings are sky-high. This shows both the complete absence of independent thought by the greater part of the herd-like population, and the levels of populism and demagoguery that Putin represents.
In March, the Russian government launched a campaign to effectively shut down all opposition media — even trying to close Twitter accounts, blogs, and other forms of social media — using constant threats of closure or prohibition under the pretext of not complying with laws approved by parliament on behalf of the president.
Essentially, all the positive publicity that Russia and Putin receive around the world consists in repeating the same old lies about the stability of the Russian economy, of reiterating how Putin is “standing up to US and Western hegemony,” and begging Russian businessmen to come to the Latin-American continent to rescue their economies.
This is all pure fantasy. It’s clearly all too easy to manipulate public opinion when people are preoccupied with their own problems and know very little about such a faraway, exotic country.
In the first instance, anyone who is genuinely interested in Russia, its economy, and political situation with a view to seeking Russian investment, must be keenly aware that neither is its economy stable nor is the country likely to prove anyone’s “savior.” By way of evidence, one need only look at the various indexes that are released each year about multiple political, social, and economic aspects of every country around the world. Russian propaganda demonizes these reports, fearful of the damage they might cause to the careful artifice they’ve constructed in weak minds, above all among Russians themselves.
For example, the latest studies on economic liberty and on perceptions of corruption carried out by the Heritage Foundation and Transparency International place Russia among the ranks of failed states in these two categories respectively. In both cases, Guatemala scores higher, with Russia 139th out of 171 under the “controlled economy” ranking, and Guatemala at 85th, described as a moderately free economy. In the corruption ranking, Russia is places 127th out of 177, making it one of the most corrupt countries on the planet — and all this despite having one of the highest levels of GDP in the world.
Another study that should be borne in mind while forging geopolitical and investment “friendships” is the Global Peace Index. According to the organization Vision of Humanity, which carries out and distributes the study, Russia is one of the least peaceful states in the world (at 152 out of 162), just before North Korea and in the company of such distinguished countries as Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, and the Central African Republic.
Latin-American governments have fallen at the feet of one of the most prominent authoritarian leaders of the 21st century. Without a doubt, the region’s predominant attitude not only says much about the Russian strategy of returning to the “glory days,” but also about how the country’s positive reception only means that its global ambitions are unquestioningly tolerated.