After WW2 Latinamerica was the destination for German Nazis and other European fascists, the rat line of the CIA-Vatican as one example and with the support of Franco and Salazar, the Iberoamerican fascist regimes– Eichmann and Barbie as most prominent examples. There were rumors that old Nazis founded the secret organization Odessa and moved gold and billions of German marks to Argentine to restart the German postwar economic miracle in order to reestablish a 4 th Reich and that Argentine authoritarian leader Peron and his wife and new Holy Mary of catholic Latinamerica Evita Peron ( “Don´t cry for me Argentina” and Madonna movie) channeled the money to Swiss accounts. But these were conspiracy theories of the right and the left to make the US Marshall Plan, the US investments and the whole US restart for Germany and Europe as a new democratic front state against communism look bad from both totalitarian sides. And Peron was not only the political pop star of the right but also of the Left and Odessa seemed more a loose association of former Nazis than a real secret society, even when movies claimed the opposite and some people say that German Eichmann prosecutor Fritz Bauer was murdered by Odessa. But at that time this was not a big topic in European or German public. When the Mossad kidnapped Eichmann from Argentine, this became a topic, but then more people were interested in Heidegger’s former student Hannah Arendt and the “Banality of Evil” than about the Nazi-Latinamerica connections. Same with Klaus Barbie in the 80s.
The situation changed with the 68 student revolt when Latinamerican solidarity committees mushroomed. The Cuba solidarity committees became much stronger, the icon of the Left Che Guevara popular, especially after his CIA murder in Bolivia he became a martyr and pop-cultural Jesus Christ Superstar, the Olympics and the massacre in Mexiko, the US- and Western-supported military coups in Brasil, Argentine, Chile, and other countries became topics of public awareness, in the 70s especially Pinochet 1973 and the world soccer cup in Argentine 1974. However, Mexiko, Brasil, Argentine solidarity committees were never very influential, more the Chile solidarity committees. The Uruguay Tupamaros and their urban guerilla concept as well as Che Guevara’s slogan “Create 1, 2, 3 Vietnams” were the blueprint for the German RAF, but the RAF found more support by the Panarab regimes and Palestinians and Latin America was not that much the focus anymore. Only Régis Debray and Jean Ziegler who knew Che Guevara personally had some influence. Debray became even adviser to French President Mitterrand and after he returned to France during 1973 later held various official posts inside of the French government.
In the 80s the European and German Left especially discovered Central America–mostly the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and the FLMN in El Salvador. At that time I also became sympathizer of the Cuba Committee, Nicaragua and El Salvador Committee. While the military dictatorships in South America seemed to be pretty stable, here was the chance to alter the power relations for the better. Also, many Christain groups were involved as the theology of liberation became very popular and Ernesto Cardenal became an icon. Both send international brigades for the sugar harvest over there. The assassination of Romero, Catholic nuns in El Salvador, the US support for the Contras polarized. While the Christan solidarity groups wanted to remain peaceful and pacifistic, more and more left groups were supporting the guerilla warfare and the armed struggle of the FLMN and the Sandinistas. There were also fundraisings under the slogan “1 German mark for 1 bullet for Somoza”. I could see this at that time when there was a meeting of the Green Party with Tomas Borge and Gaby Gottwald in Munich.
But with the democratization of Latinamerica, EU and NATO membership after the democratization of Spain and Portugal in the 80s, only Cuba and Nicaragua remained central to the Left, but the solidarity groups vanished, lost members, became more revolution museums for old veterans and many found their way in the Social Democrats/ Socialists, the Left Party, and the Green Party and became reformist and democratic politicians.
Post- Cold war
Latin America wasn´t that much anymore in the focus in Europe or Germany until globalization accelerated and NAFTA was established as the first an avantgardist free trade area, while Bush jr. even was thinking about a Panamerican free trade zone and when Goldman Sachs defined the BRICS as the potential new emerging markets, economies and states and the BRICS also became political reality, the EU and German political elites, as well as the public, became more interested in this formation with Brasil as locomotive for Latinamerica. Lula and Rousseff became well-known representatives of a third way in distinction to Chavez`s Socialism of the 21st century and the neoliberalism of Thatcher/Reagan/ Hayek/ the Chicago boys of Milton Friedman which had its first battlefield in Chile under Pinochet. Lula and Rousseff in Brasil: A former urban guerilla women and a former union activist becoming presidents and paving the path for a social-democratic growth model. Central America was not important anymore, it was now between neoliberal USA, Brasil and Venezuela. The discussion if the EU could ignore Latinameica as potential free-trade area was finding more and more supporters.
The situation today:
The new variables defining the relations between the EU or Germany and Latinamerica and China’s role in Latinamerica are Trump and Bolsanaro. They are perceived as the real enemies of the EU and Germany and not that much China.
As Trump and Bolsanaro are right-winged anti-democrats, not members of the Paris Climate Accord, not supporters of multilateralism or multilateral free trade agreements, active destroyers of the environment, the relation to Latin America in Europe and Germany also polarizes:
The democratic and left parts of the EU and Germany defined climate protection and Green Europe in 2050, the support of democracy in Latinamerica and the support for free trade areas as their defining moments. But free trade agreements like TTIP and now the free trade area with the Mercusor/ Latin America are disputed, especially as the new Friday for Future movement and Greta criticized that the EU-Mercusor treaty lead to the situation that the Amazon is destroyed for more cattle and soya bean exports and that the free trade agreement contradicts climate protection. As China and Russia are also members of the Paris Climate Accord they are not seen that much an enemy in Latinamerica for EU or German policy as Trump-USA and Bolsanaro-Brasil. This doesn´t mean that the democratic and left forces idealize China or Russia´s role in Latin America, but that they see Trump and Bolsonaro or similar forces as the main threat. The Amazonas and Green lung of the world burns became the headline of most newspapers and slogan of the environmentalists.
In the EU and the German parliament, you have fierce debates between the climate change denier of the right like the AfD and the democrats or left parts. While the right radical parties claim that Trump and Bolsanro´s America and Brasil First is the solution, the other parties see them as the ultimate evil.
The German right radical Götz Kubitschek, chief editor of the Sezession who is supporting the AfD and Bolsonaro also has his Latinamerican connections. His grandfather was former president of Brasilia 1956 and founder of its capital Brasilia. Ironically, Götz Kubitschek’s grandfather Juscelino Kubitschek was more of a center-left, modern politician who is said to have been killed by the right-wing military – Götz Kubitschek is now allied with the radical right-wing political forces who killed his grandfather.
But between environmentalists in these parties and business-orientated members, the main difference is, how you can support the old Washinton Consensus-Free Trade model which is counteracting climate, consumer and labor protection. And China´s and Russia´s support for Venezuela is also mostly seen negative and the sympathies are more with Guaidano than with Maduro, except his supporters of the failed socialism of the 21st Century. Wikipedia:
Socialism of the 21st century (Spanish: socialismo del siglo XXI) is an interpretation of socialist principles first advocated by German sociologist and political analyst Heinz Dieterich and taken up by a number of Latin American leaders. Dieterich argued in 1996 that both free-market industrial capitalism and 20th-century socialism have failed to solve urgent problems of humanity like poverty, hunger, exploitation, economic oppression, sexism, racism, the destruction of natural resources and the absence of a truly participative democracy. Socialism of the 21st century has democratic socialist elements, but it primarily resembles Marxist revisionism.Leaders who have advocated for this form of socialism include Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, Néstor Kirchner of Argentina, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, Evo Morales of Bolivia and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil. Because of the local unique historical conditions, socialism of the 21st century is often contrasted with previous applications of socialism in other countries, with a major difference being the effort towards a more decentralised and participatory planning process.
Dietrich is now teaching at the University of Mexico and criticizes Chavez and Maduro that they made a planned economy instead of a mixed economy. He wants now to advise Mexiko´s new president Obrador.
China is as Trump-USA becoming a more and more negative image because of its neototalitarisitc social bonus system, support for authoritarian regimes, human rights violations, ignorance for labor, environment or consumer protection. China is perceived more and more a competitor and challenge for the EU and Germany and the New Sildkorad/BRI, Corona, toxic kid toys deepen that negative image. But China also is an important market for the EU and Germany as the USA is.
But China´s role in Latin America is not a topic in elite or publíc debates at the moment. The last big article about this was that Germany made a joint-venture with Bolivia about the exploitation of Lithium for the production of batteries for E-cars and that Bolivia rejected the Chinese offer. Now it is disputed if the Bolivians were teaming up with Germany because the EU and German trade model and conditions are fairer or if the Chinese just weren´t interested as the quality of Lithium was that bad that they let the Germans make some misinvestment. However, the role of China on Latinamerica is not a big topic in the EU and Germany, much more Trump´s and Bolsanaro´s negative role in Latinamerica and the world.