US Assistant Secretary: China Is Corrupting Latin America

By Kitty Wang

Kim Breier, Assistant Secretary Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, criticized China’s corruption, lack of transparency and debt diplomacy in the Americas on April 26, adding that it weakens a society’s political system and undermines a nation’s autonomy. Breier made the remarks while on a tour of four Latin American countries with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“In Latin America and the Caribbean, we have seen that China, too, often departs from these international standards. And what it does, its opaque practices, enable corruption, erode good governance, and challenge state sovereignty.”

Breier’s speech coincides with China’s Second Belt and Road Forum, which was held in Beijing April 25-27.

The forum, titled “Fight Corruption,” comes amid increasing international criticism of the Chinese regime’s activities abroad.

Despite its name, the forum remains boycotted by many democratic countries.

The United States refrained from sending any officials to the event, and openly called the Belt and Road initiative a Chinese “vanity project.”

“Contrary to our hopes, China expanded its power at the expense of the sovereignty of others,” Breier said. “China gathers and exploits data on an unrivaled scale, and spreads features of its authoritarian system, including corruption and use of surveillance.”

Breier used the embattled socialist regime in Venezuela headed by illegitimate dictator Nicolas Maduro, who is being propped up by China and Russia, as an example of Beijing’s strategy to export corruption, debt traps, and authoritarian models of governance to Latin American countries.

Jamaica also recently joined the Belt and Road initiative as the fifth Central American country participating in the program.

According to experts, Latin America is compromised in their dealings with China due to their incomplete understanding of the Chinese Communist Party.

Christopher Walker, VP for Studies and Analysis, National Endowment for Democracy, said the task now is to weigh the costs and benefits to decide whether the relationship is balanced and beneficial to them.

“To the extent that they are under-informed or don’t have an authentic understanding of [China’s foreign relations strategies], it puts them at a terrific disadvantage,” he said.

Walker, however, said Latin American countries are gradually awakening to the pitfalls of dealing with the Chinese regime with the help of advice from the United States.

“In all of these cases, these countries are trying to figure out the most effective way to safeguard democratic principles, freedom of expression in a variety of contexts,” he said. “And it’s something that won’t happen quickly or easily, but I think we are just in the early stages of devising those responses.”