China's Foray Into Latin America
W. Stakelbeck, Jr.
years after the Cuban Missile Crisis, America once again finds
itself in the crosshairs of a determined, Cuban-based adversary
possessing the capability to inflict incalculable damage to U.S.
democracy efforts and regional stability. That adversary is China.
For two decades,
Soviet defense, economic and intelligence assistance allowed Fidel
Castro’s Cuba to project its own brand of Stalinist totalitarianism
throughout Latin America infesting countries such as Nicaragua,
El Salvador, Guatemala, and Chile. Castro’s dream of leading a
new Latin American empire ended abruptly in the early 1990’s with
the fall of the Soviet Union, sending the island nation into a
catastrophic, decade-long economic freefall.
an opportunity for a permanent base of influence and operations
in the Western Hemisphere, China has stepped into the void caused
by the Soviet collapse to embrace Castro, giving the Cuban leader
a second chance to secure a place among the world’s communist
fondness of China is well-known. In fact, Cuba was the first Latin
American country to establish relations with China in 1961. Since
that time, Cuba and China have attempted to balance domestic economic
expansion with a strong, central control of the political process.
As a result, natural synergies have emerged allowing the two countries
to develop a mutually beneficial relationship in the areas of
defense, finance, education, energy, intelligence, science, and
relationship has grown in both its diversity and intensity recently,
heightened by Cuba and China’s mutual disdain for what they see
as America’s global hegemony and intrusiveness. Their joint, anti-democracy
stance was further solidified in March when Cuba’s Foreign Ministry
Office issued a statement supporting the “one China” principle
and the Chinese anti-secession law.
overtures and a renewed commitment to the Castro government make
it clear that China views Cuba as a valuable ally moving forward.
In November 2004, Chinese President Hu Jintao and 200 Chinese
businesspersons took part in the China Investment and Trade Forum
in Havana. As a result of this increased economic cooperation,
China has become the island’s third largest trading partner behind
only Venezuela and Spain. This, as Chinese President Hu Jintao
reaffirmed his country’s commitment to Latin America by announcing
an astounding $100 billion investment in the region in the next
primary interest in Cuba is not related to commerce. Rather, the
country is interested in fostering defense ties with the island
and developing a state-of-the-art intelligence infrastructure
to monitor US activities in the region. Intelligence and spying,
not Cuban cigars and sugar cane, motivates Beijing.
late 1990’s, independent Cuban journalists have reported an increasing
number of Chinese diplomats, scientists, engineers, and military
advisors arriving in Cuba. As a result, the Cuban Chinese community
now makes up 1 percent of the island’s total population of 11.3
In the face
of an increasing Chinese presence only 90 miles off the Florida
coast, the question remains: Will Fidel Castro become a conduit
for Chinese expansionist aspirations in the region setting the
stage for another confrontation with the US? Given Cuba’s dismal
economic condition, Castro’s deteriorating health, and a consensus
within the Cuban government that China offers a formidable ally
against American regional authority and control – the answer is
the possibility of another confrontation with Cuba, it is important
to remember that Fidel Castro is the same man who in 1962 pleaded
with the Soviet Union to initiate a nuclear attack on the US He
is directly responsible for a Latin American communist insurgency
that has resulted in regional destabilization and illegal immigration
over America’s southern border. After coming to power, he nationalized
billions of dollars worth of American property without compensation
to its owners. His clandestine support of Latin American drug
smugglers and trafficking is well known.
Cuba’s Deputy Foreign Minister Alberto Moreno took a page out
of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s book of socialist paranoia
are publicly speaking of regime change in Cuba. They were already
attacking us as sponsors of terrorism. Now we are told we are
an outpost of tyranny. We do not discount the possibility of
merely diversionary comments designed to conceal illicit or subversive
actions on the part of both China and Cuba.
are working together to penetrate US intelligence, collect classified
information on US ports and navel assets, and secure information
on the latest US science and technology. China and Cuba have increased
their cooperation in the areas of cyber-terrorism, biological
and chemical weapons research and development, and missile capabilities.
In addition, China’s use of the Bejucal base in Cuba, as well
as facilities in Wajay and Santiago de Cuba, pose a growing threat
to US national security.
In the face
of international pressure, comprehensive US legislative action
such as the Cuban Democracy Act, which prohibits foreign-based
subsidiaries of US companies from trading with Cuba, and the Helms-Burton
Act, which denies certain visas and gives American citizens the
right to sue foreign investors, should be continued and strengthened.
In addition, a “Cuban Contingency Plan” should be formulated to
counter any increased defense and intelligence activities initiated
by Cuba which may involve hostile, non-hemispheric foreign powers
such as China.
bulk carriers and transports offloading at Cuban ports should
be closely monitored for offensive or intelligence-oriented contraband
including: advanced satellite communications and jamming equipment,
missiles and their components, mobile launch platforms, sophisticated
military hardware, and tracking devices.
It is no
coincidence that China is positioning itself in the Gulf of Mexico,
Panamanian Peninsula, Canada’s British Columbia, and Venezuela.
It is also no coincidence that the Chinese are spending billions
of dollars to upgrade antiquated Soviet military facilities in
Cuba. Not surprisingly, escalating Chinese economic involvement
in Latin America since the 1990’s has brought with it a resurgence
of socialist behavior and empathy.
by the Chinese in the Western Hemisphere are designed to secure
state-sponsored outposts at strategic “choke” points that one
day can be used by Beijing to place acute pressure on the US and
its allies. In this regard, recent comments made by Chinese sympathizers
such as Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez that a “new geopolitical map of
alliances is emerging” support a troubling trend of inflammatory
comments by Latin leaders. Otto Reich, a Cuban-born US diplomat
under the first President Bush stated in March.
US needs a secure and prosperous hemisphere not only to ensure
a peaceful neighborhood in which to live, but also to be able
to project its power to the farthest reaches of the globe.
is an increasingly isolated man frustrated by a communist strategy
that has produced 40 years of suffering for the Cuban people.
As his years as president wind down, he is seeking to solidify
his socialist legacy. What better way to achieve this goal than
by playing one final cruel joke on America by allowing communist
China unrestricted access to the Western Hemisphere?
question for Washington. If an aggressive, Cold War-era Soviet
Union made bilateral defense agreements with countries in Latin
America; purchased large quantities of vital raw materials from
Canada; obtained vast amounts of crude oil from Venezuela; and
established ports in Cuba and Panama, would America have stood
by and watched?
W. Stakelbeck, Jr. is a freelance journalist based in Philadelphia
and a contributor to the The
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