CCP Poised to Expand Security Footprint In Latin America With New Port In Argentina
Authored by Autumn Spredemann via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),
China’s rapidly expanding military and surveillance initiatives across Latin America have become more than just a thorn in the side of Washington.
In Argentina’s southern tip, Tierra del Fuego, on June 5, Governor Gustavo Melella greenlit a”multi-purpose” Chinese-operated port facility through decree 3312/22, which entered the provincial legislature the same day. The country currently houses a Chinese military-run facility operating in the remote Neuquén Province.
Final approval is still needed from the national government and the undersecretary of ports, waterways, and merchant Marine to move forward.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP)-affiliated company involved in the port facility is Shaanxi Chemical Industry Group. Though civilian on the surface, the U.S. State Department expressed concern over Beijing’s prioritization of “military-civilian fusion,” a state strategy that forces Chinese companies to share technology and assets with the CCP military.
In the agreement signed by Melella, it states, “The smooth construction of the project will be exemplary for the investment of Chinese companies in southern Argentina.”
In March, top U.S. military officers, including U.S. Southern Command Gen. Laura Richardson, warned that China’s “aggressive” expansion in Latin America isn’t some long-term threat to U.S. interests and security.
It’s happening right now.
“The PRC [People’s Republic of China] has expanded its ability to extract resources, establish port, manipulate governments through predatory investment practices, and build potential dual-use space facilities,” Ms. Richardson said during a March 8 House Armed Services Committee hearing.
Like-minded security analysts and a former Argentine government official have expressed similar concerns over potential military and surveillance applications of China’s new port being built in the town of Rio Grande, Tierra del Fuego.
Ideally situated near the Straights of Magellan, a CCP port facility in Rio Grande offers direct access—and potential control—over the world’s second most important shipping lane between the Western and Eastern hemispheres.
Cuba is a good lens for understanding how CCP projects with Latin American governments typically unfold.
Interstingly, the Rio Grande project was approved a week before The Wall Street Journal published a story discussing China’s “Project 141” initiative—the regime’s blueprint for how it intends to grow a global military and logistical support network.
One of the projects identified was a joint China-Cuba spy facility near Havana. The Biden administration later confirmed the existence of a Chinese spy base operating in Havana since 2019.
“I believe there is an integral alliance at all levels between the CCP regime and the Castro-Canel regime. We know training is taking place. It’s documented,” regional analyst and author Orlando Gutiérrez-Boronat told The Epoch Times.
Military and surveillance cooperation between China and Cuba isn’t anything new, but Mr. Gutiérrez-Boronat believes a deeper level of security engagement between the two nations offers a means of helping Cuba’s communist government a way to hold fast to its faltering grip on power.
“We know that Chinese companies quickly acted to cut internet access in Cuba during the popular uprising of July 11, 2021,” he said, adding, “I think the regime seeks the Chinese presence in order to guard itself from its own people.”
But Cuba’s regime isn’t the only Latin American government on the ropes with its own people. As the October presidential election closes in, insiders say Argentina’s Peronist government is scrambling to create economic stability in a bid to stay in power.
And cooperation with CCP security initiatives is part of the deal when it comes to cashing the checks they write.
“Evan as a private port facility, the opportunities it creates are important for those running that facility,” Evan Ellis, a Latin America research professor for the U.S. Army War College Strategic Studies Institute, told The Epoch Times.
Mr. Ellis noted that while China’s engagement in the region is mostly economic, the CCP is “increasingly operating in strategic spaces” with secondary benefits and military purposes.
And the Rio Grande facility in Tierra del Fugeo offers an enticing opportunity for strategic and military applications.
“China has never hidden their desire to create military options,” Mr. Ellis said.
While dual-use port facilities in Rio Grande and the China-Cuba surveillance project may not seem like huge steps forward, Ellis noted the CCP is definitely “stepping up their game.”
For China, Ellis says it’s all about creating “strategic options.”
Presently, there’s no more eager friend of China than Argentina’s Peronist regime. Within the leftist government, controversial politician and Vice President Cristina Kirchner is Peronism’s greatest champion.
A self-described “militant” Peronist, Ms. Kirchner’s disastrous economic practices during her presidency from 2007 to 2015 laid the policy foundation for the nation’s current astronomical inflation. In June, Argentinian economist Carlos Perez predicted the country’s inflation would average 147 percent in 2023 while the GDP is expected to fall up to 3.5 percent.
Today, Argentina’s peso has plummeted dramatically. The currency’s official exchange rate has devaluated more than 100 percent in the past year amid international loan defaults, dwindling foreign currency reserves, and soaring poverty rates.
But Ms. Kirchner’s supporters remain loyal at both the legislative and civilian levels. Among the cornerstone philosophies of “Kirchnerism”—as it’s locally known—is a favorable disposition toward China’s interests.
And Tierra del Fuego’s Governor Melella is an ardent disciple of “Kirchnerism.”
“His position is very pro-China,” former Argentinian government official and political analyst Fabian Calle told The Epoch Times.
The debate surrounding the port aside, Mr. Calle thinks the national government may still approve the Rio Grande project. He says the current stall is due to ongoing negotiations for a new round of loans and repayment extensions from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Read more here…
Wed, 07/12/2023 – 20:20
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