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The Americas react to the Russian invasion of Ukraine

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Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro shake hands after a joint news conference following their talks at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, February 16, 2022. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

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Leaders of Latin America and the Caribbean reacted to news of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Thursday with a flurry of statements, videos and tweets ranging from outright condemnation to avoiding outright criticism and even endorsing aggression, highlighting the growing polarization of the western hemisphere.

As President Joe Biden works to build an international coalition to isolate Russian President Vladimir Putin, the issue is likely to spark further friction with some of the Latin American governments that have so far issued a lukewarm response to the invasion.

These are some of the reactions of the leaders of the region to the Russian military aggression.

Mexico

Populist President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is already facing domestic criticism, including from former Mexican diplomats, for what they say is an inappropriately soft response to Russia’s military attack on Ukraine.

In his daily morning press conference, known as “la mañanera,” López Obrador said Thursday that his government “will continue to promote dialogue, that force is not used, that there is no invasion. We are not in favor of any war.” But he stopped short of explicitly condemning Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

“Mexico has always supported peace and peaceful solutions,” he said.

Peru

Like Mexico, Peru’s Foreign Ministry rejected the use of force but avoided mentioning Russia in a tweet expressing “deep concern about the evolution of events in Ukraine.” The statement called for a cessation of hostilities.

Argentina

Earlier this month, left-leaning Argentine President Alberto Fernández offered his country as Russia’s “gateway” to Latin America during a meeting with Putin. Facing intense criticism, his government quickly issued a statement Thursday morning lamenting the situation in Ukraine, rejecting the use of force and calling on Russia to “cease military actions in Ukraine.” But in the afternoon, Fernandez said he was calling “on all parties not to use military force,” again drawing criticism for what some saw as a reluctance to denounce Russia as the aggressor.

Brazil

President Jair Bolsonaro’s trip to Moscow last week, as tensions over Ukraine escalated, has already created discord with the United States. Brazil’s statement on Thursday likely did little to improve the state of relations, which have soured since former President Donald Trump left the White House.

In the statement, the Brazilian government said it is “deeply concerned about the military operations launched by Russia against the territory of Ukraine” and called for a cessation of hostilities. But he did not condemn Russia’s actions.

Chile

“Chile condemns Russia’s aggression against Ukraine,” the country’s foreign ministry said in a statement. Dispelling doubts about his position, the leftist president-elect, Gabriel Boric, said that Russia “has chosen war”.

“From Chile we condemn the invasion of Ukraine, the violation of its sovereignty and the illegitimate use of force,” he said on Twitter. “Our solidarity will be with the victims and our humble efforts with peace.”

Colombia

Unsurprisingly, Colombia, a “major non-NATO ally” of the United States, issued a strong condemnation of the Russian actions.

“Colombia categorically rejects the attacks against Ukraine by Russia,” President Iván Duque said on Twitter early in the morning. “These events threaten the sovereignty of Ukraine and put the lives of thousands of people at risk, in an unquestionable situation contrary to International Law and the UN Charter.”

Caricom

The Caribbean Community, CARICOM, which brings together some twenty nations, said that it “strongly condemns the military attacks and the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation and calls for the immediate and complete withdrawal of the military presence and the cessation of any another action that could intensify the current dangerous situation in that country.”

In the statement, CARICOM also criticized Russia’s recognition of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Lugansk regions as independent, calling it a “violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.”

Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela

The authoritarian leaders of the three countries closest to Russia in the Americas did not comment on the matter on Thursday. But they have previously expressed their support for Putin’s actions in Ukraine, which the three have justified by citing Russia’s right to defend itself against the United States, in the face of NATO expansion in Eastern Europe.

As Putin launched his attack on Ukraine, Cuban leader Miguel Diaz-Canel met with Russian State Duma Speaker Viacheslav Volodin on Wednesday night.

According to Cuban state media, the Cuban leader expressed his “solidarity with the Russian Federation in the face of the imposition of sanctions and the expansion of NATO towards its borders.”

But unlike Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua and Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela, the Cuban leader has avoided referring to Russia’s military incursion into Ukraine and has not publicly endorsed it.

Related articles el Nuevo Herald

Profile photo of Nora Gámez Torres

Nora Gámez Torres is the Cuba/US-Latin American policy reporter for el Nuevo Herald and the Miami Herald. She studied journalism and media and communications in Havana and London. She holds a Ph.D. in sociology from City, University of London. Her work by her has won awards by the Florida Society of News Editors and the Society for Professional Journalists.//Nora Gámez Torres studied journalism and communication in Havana and London. She has a doctorate in sociology and since 2014 she has been covering Cuban issues for the Nuevo Herald and the Miami Herald. She also reports on US policy toward Latin America. Her work has been recognized with awards from the Florida Society of News Editors and the Society for Professional Journalists.

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