Interview with Dr. Evan Ellis about Latinamerica: „No region of the world is more important in its contribution to U.S. prosperity and security“

Interview with Dr. Evan Ellis about Latinamerica: „No region of the world is more important in its contribution to U.S. prosperity and security“

Global Review had the pleasure and honour to talk with Latinamerica expert Dr. Evan Ellis about the the situation in Latinamerica.


Dr. R. Evan Ellis is a research professor of Latin American Studies at the Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, with a research focus on the region’s relationships with China and other non-Western Hemisphere actors. He has presented his work in a broad range of business and government forums in 25 countries on four continents. He has given testimony on Latin America and Carribbean Security Issues to the U.S. Congress, and has discussed his work regarding China and other external actors in Latin America on a broad range of radio and television programs, including CNN International, CNN En Español, The John Bachelor Show, Voice of America, and Radio Marti. Dr. Ellis is cited regularly in the print media in both the United States and Latin America for his work in this area, including The Washington Times, Bloomberg, América Economía, DEF, and InfoBAE. Dr. Ellis has published over 110 works, including China in Latin America: The Whats and Wherefores (2009), The Strategic Dimension of Chinese Engagement with Latin America (2013), China on the Ground in Latin America (2014) and Honduras: A Pariah State, or Innovative Solutions to Organized Crime Deserving U.S. Support? (2016). Dr. Ellis holds a Ph.D. in political science with a specialization in comparative politic

Global Review Professor Ellis, which role plays Latinamerica in the history of US American foreign policy—from the Monroe Doctrine to „gun boat-Yankee imperialism“to NAFTA to the Asian pivot. Is Latinamerica getting marginalized in the US foreign policy?

Evan Ellis In the post-Cold War era, Latin America’s relative prosperity, lack of interstate conflict, and the absence of existential threats to the U.S. from the region (eg. nuclear weapons and major peer competitors) has meant that U.S. policymakers have focused their limited time and resources to a somewhat greater degree on other areas of the world: Asia, with its increasing importance in economic terms and associated prospects for conflict, Europe, with an increasingly aggressive Russia, and the Middle East and North Africa with the global terrorists threats presented by actors such as ISIS.  Nonetheless, no region of the world is more important in its contribution to U.S. prosperity and security, through its geographic and economic connectedness and ties of family than is Latin America.  The relative lack of time spent by US policymakers discussing the region should not be confused with a lack of interest in the prosperity or security of the region, but rather, a choice of emphasis by the present outgoing administration, in the face of exigencies that it has faced in multiple places abroad.

Global Review How would you describe China´s influence in Latinamerica? Latinamerica is not part of the One-Belt-One- Road (OBOR)/New Silkroad initiative, but Brasil is a member of BRICS:What interests have the Chinese in Latinamerica in their global strategy and on which countries do they focus their attention for what purpose?

Evan Ellis China is increasingly an important economic partner for Latin America and the Caribbean, principally as a purchaser of its commodities and foodstuffs such as soy and fishmeal, and a supplier of a broad range of products and services, from cheap textiles to cars and computers, to loan-funded construction services focused on the ALBA countries and the Caribbean, to telecommunications, banking, and logistics.  Chinese development banks have been an important new source of funding for the region, loaning more than $125 billion to the region in the past decade.  Since 2010, it is also becoming an important investment partner in the region, although many Chinese companies continue to struggle to operate effectively as local actors, dealing with local partners, local governments, and local challenges.  The prospects of Chinese trade, loans and investment, and access to vast Chinese markets has given the PRC significant „soft power“ among Latin American businessmen and political leaders, although slowing Chinese GDP growth, associated falling prices for commodities exported to China, and growing familiarity  with the pitfalls of doing business with Chinese companies has contributed to a more balanced assessment of China as a business partner in recent years.

China’s focus, as defined by President Xi’s 2014 „1+3+6“ engagement approach with the region, is concentrated principally on economic engagement, with all countries of the region, including trade, finance, and investment, with concentration in a limited number of priority areas, including energy and resources, infrastructure construction, agriculture, manufacturing, scientific and technological innovation, and information technologies.  China’s countries of focus are reflected in those that it has declared as strategic partners, including Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina, Mexico, Chile, and Peru, but is not limited to these.

Global Review Clinton became wellknown for NAFTA, in the George W. Bush era there was talk about a panamerican free trade area. What happend to this project or becomes APEC and TPP an substitute for it? Which role has APEC and TPP for Latinamerica?

Evan Ellis The FTAA is not actively progressing, or receiving emphasis as a viable trade initiative.  The TPP, which was ratified in Auckand in February 2016, but which has not been implemented legislatively yet by the required critical mass of members, now faces an uncertain future insofar as both major U.S. presidential candidates have indicated their opposition to it.

Global Review The US- Cuban raaprochment will be seen as the legacy of the Obama  adminsistration. Why did the USA change its course? Many exile- Cubans and Republicans see this as a big betrayal for democracy in Cuba? What do you think about this deal?

Evam Ellis The Obama administration saw the change in policy as important for overcoming  what it perceived to be a non-functional policy and a major obstacle to its engagement in Latin America.  The administration wishes for this policy to be a key part of  its legacy with respect to Latin American policy, yet the reluctance of the US Congress to eliminate sanctions against Cuba, and Cuba’s own slowness in reforming, casts doubts on whether this policy will produce a significant change in the region beyond what it has achieved to date.

Global Review Venezula´s „socialism of the 21st century“has failed.How do you see the future of Venezuela? Will the country face a civil war, desintegration, a democratization and new beginning? Is there the danger that instability in Venezuela could spill over to other Latinamerican countries?

Evan Ellis Venezuela will most likely hold a recall referendum in early 2017 in which pragmatic pro-government forces will surprise Maduro by siding with the moderate opposition, leading to a transitional government that will protect those government forces from prosecution and extradition to the United States for their criminal activities.  Cuba, which has an important intelligence presence penetrating the Venezuelan military and government, will likely allow it to happen in order to save the revolution and their own economic benefits from Venezuela.  Some moderates from the MUD such as Henrique Capriles Rodonsky will likely be invited into the new government while Maduro himself and his key ideological supporters will be prosecuted to create the illusion of change.  The opposition will declare victory, as will the US.  The new government will invite key businesses and foreign interests back into the oil sector, enticing them with offer to protect their interests and adopt somewhat more rational economic policies, in exchange for the opportunity to be the first „back into“ Venezuela.  Enough will accept to allow the economy to limp through to the end of the electoral cycle, while the pragmatic socialists continue to consolidate power and avoid prosecution while enjoying their ill-gotten gains.

Global Review Columbia has signed a peace agreement with the FARC, the ELN will likely follow this course. What is the main content of the peace deal? Will we see peace in Columbia in the next decade or what is your prognosis for this country?

Evan Ellis It is unclear whether the ELN will quickly follow the FARC into a peace deal as many have suggested.  The ELN has a much more diffuse leadership than  the FARC, making it much more difficult  to arrive at a single agreement with the organization.  Moreover it relies much more heavily on kidnapping, and has been reluctant to entirely give up such activities, as the government has demanded, as a precondition for talks.  Complicating matters, after the FARC deal, the ELN will see its ranks swelled by guerillas who do not agree with the peace deal, and will move into terrain ceded by the FARC, particularly in lucrative coca production and illegal mining areas.  The ELN will also watch the dynamics of the post-agreement treatment of the FARC closely before deciding to proceed.  If the Colombian government is not able to protect the FARC leaders from assassination, if the transitional justice portion of the agreement with the FARC does not allow their leaders to escape prosecution, if the Colombian government is too effective in finding and seizing hidden FARC wealth, or if FARC leaders are not able to make a successful transition to political power, the ELN will be reluctant to join the accord…

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