Russia Looks to Bolster Presence in Latin America



Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sought to expand trade links and political ties on a visit to Latin America this week, saying that he wants to double trade with Brazil and strengthen cooperation with Venezuela .

“I hope in the next few years the turnover will reach US$ 10 billion a year,” Medvedev said at a luncheon with Russian and Brazilian businessmen on Tuesday, Reuters reported. Total trade between the two countries amounted to US$ 5 billion in 2007.

“There are other sectors where we can exchange opinions, create joint ventures. That is space, aviation, the military-industrial complex and the energy sector,” Medvedev said.

The Russian President was scheduled to have an official state visit with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Wednesday.

Following his stop in Brazil , Medvedev is scheduled to visit Venezuela , where Russian and Venezuelan warships conducted joint naval exercises on Wednesday in a display of military cooperation ahead of the Russian leader's visit. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is reportedly hoping to strengthen the two countries' ties on defence and energy in order to further marginalise the US ' influence in the region, which is already on the decline.

“We have similar strategic visions and we have rapidly grown closer,” Chavez said of relations with Russia , the New York Times reported.

On the first stop of his Latin American tour, Medvedev signed a series of economic and political cooperation agreements. After Venezuela , the Russian President has planned a stop in Cuba .

Bilateral trade between Latin America and Russia will total close to US$ 15 billion for 2008, higher than in the past but still significantly lower than the region's annual trade with the US (at US$ 560 billion), the EU (US$ 250 billion), and China (US$ 100 billion).

ICTSD reporting; “ Russia 's Medvedev in Brazil , aims to double trade,” REUTERS, 25 November 2008 ; “ Venezuela welcomes Russian ships,” BBC NEWS, 25 November 2008 ; “ Venezuela : Russian navy arrives for joint exercises,” THE NEW YORK TIMES, 26 November 2008 .