Friday 8 December 2023

China Seeks to Boost Autocratic Regimes in Central America

Security and defense analyst Javier Melendez warns about “the aggressive progress of the Chinese in the takeover of communications in Honduras and Nicaragua.”

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Q24N (EFE / Confidencial) China will help consolidate the “autocratic regimes” in the Central American countries of El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, while in Costa Rica and Panama, they will maintain economic and trade relations, predicts Javier Melendez, a Nicaraguan security and defense analyst.

From left to right: Chinese Defense Attaché in Nicaragua, Senior Coronel Liu Zhaofeng; Laureano Ortega Murillo, son of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo; General Julio Cesar Aviles, Chief of the Nicaraguan National Army; and the Chinese Ambassador in Nicaragua, Chen Xi. Photo from Nicaragua’s official media

Melendez, who coordinates the activities of the Observatory on China in Central America, told EFE that “the model of China’s approach to Central America depends on the type of institutional framework” in each country.

“China’s interests and objectives in Panama and Costa Rica differ from the interests and objectives that China has in its relations with Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua,” noted the expert in the context of a seminar called “Analyzing China’s influence in Central America,” organized in San Jose by the organization Expediente Abierto, which he leads, and the German Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom.

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The Chinese Model

For Melendez, with 25 years of experience in public safety, national defense, and organized crime issues in El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, “what we have seen is an open action by China to consolidate these regimes to increase the anti-Western narrative and stress that the Chinese model is more viable for these autocrats.”

He asserted that in its diplomatic relations with third countries, China “does not require transparency, democracy or human rights, which are completely minimized or barely touched on.”

“For the Chinese, this type of relation with these types of autocrats is the ideal to which they can strive in Central America,” he emphasized.

He noted that through the leaders of those three countries, mainly Sandinista Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, and Xiomara Castro, in Honduras, China “could find a kind of clientelism or complicity” to “disseminate the Chinese narrative” in the West as the model of success in the new world order.

“In Nicaragua, Honduras, and El Salvador, China has three partners that could help it disseminate and make more visible its ideas about ending US influence or hegemony in the region,” he remarked.

Taking over of telecommunications

Melendez, who was also stripped of his nationality by the Ortega regime and lives in the United States, expressed his concern about “the aggressive progress of the Chinese in the takeover of telecommunications in Honduras and Nicaragua.”

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“We are following up on the agreements that the Hondurans are making with Chinese state agencies and the prospective alliance that could be made with Huawei, which would imply that we would again have a scenario like in Nicaragua, in which the Chinese have access to most data of the citizens in those countries,” he warned.”

“We are concerned because we have learned of experiences in Panama, Ecuador, and Bolivia, where the Chinese have used user information to propose models of brutal persecution and surveillance under the pretext of improving security monitoring. However, it became clear in those experiences that it ended up being used for political espionage of civil society, renowned journalists, among others,” he argued.

Thus, according to Melendez, China will advance in Central America “as far as each country that hosts it will let them.”

Last March, Honduras joined Costa Rica (2007), Panama (2017), El Salvador (2018), and Nicaragua (2021), which broke their relations with Taiwan in favor of the People’s Republic of China.

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