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Colombia’s ambassador to the United States warned Tuesday that Russia has been meddling in the region and is threatening democracies there. He also extolled the US relationship with his country and said it was important to further democratic values in the region.
In an interview with Fox News Digital, Amb. Juan Carlos Pinzón described how Russia – a country with a long and varied history of negative involvement in Latin America – continues to use its influence through nefarious ways on the continent.
He told Fox News Digital, “Russia has been trying to be in the region, trying to influence, frankly speaking, a malignant way, our democracies through cyber-attacks, through misinformation and that’s something that we care (about) because there are regimes in the region like the one of (Nicolas) Maduro in Venezuela or (Daniel) Ortega’s in Nicaragua, that somehow have allowed their territories for such kind of threats. “
Pinzón, who was a guest speaker at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Los Angeles this week, warned of Russia’s nefarious actions on the continent and described how it has been playing an especially problematic role in Venezuela and Nicaragua. They said the Russians have set up information and cyber capabilities that they said, “somehow affected the politics in the region including one in my own country.”
Colombians go to the polls later this month to elect a new president, and there are growing concerns that Russia has already started a campaign of interference. In March, a senior administration official told reporters on the eve of the Colombian president’s visit to the White House that this was an area of concern and noted that Colombia had “expressed significant concerns at the level of disinformation – clearly or apparently – directly from Russia into Colombia. “
The US official also noted that the US was helping its South American ally with technical assistance to help with an increase in cyber-attacks. According to the Voice of America’s reporting, there were more than 50,000 detected attacks against the web platform of Colombia’s national voter registry in the lead-up to its parliamentary elections in March.
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One of the countries that has been at the center of Russia’s malign influence has been Venezuela which has spent billions in securing its presence there.
Venezuela shares a border with Colombia and following years of political turmoil, corruption and involvement in narco-terrorism the former oil-rich country’s economy has all but collapsed leading to a mass exodus, which according to UN estimates is close to six million – two million of whom have fled to Colombia.
Pinzón said it is important for democracy to return to Venezuela. He told Fox News Digital, “In our opinion, what matters is to keep the clear objective as a tough idea, which is bringing back democracy to Venezuela. Let’s not give any benefit, or opportunity to autocrats or to those who have violated human rights Or to those who are being involved in criminal activities, including drug trafficking. Let’s make sure that any negotiation is to benefit the Venezuelan people and to bring back democracy. “
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Pinzón said the best way to prevent illegal immigration from there is to have a prosperous Latin America. “If we can bring prosperity to Latin America, investment, jobs, security, a stable democracy, strong institutions, we will not see such a level of migration.” He noted that the continent has a billion people, a wealth of natural resources and all it needs is the proper investment and support to make it prosper.
Pinzon heralded the 200-year-old relationship Colombia has had with the United States. “I think the US-Colombia operation is the most important in the Western Hemisphere. We have fought together drug traffickers, criminals and I think we will need to continue to do that because unfortunately these drugs continue to increase its presence.” He also noted that the US has a big role to play in noting how it’s a major consumer of illegal drugs.
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He concluded, “We need to work together, those who produce and those who have the consumption and by doing that, really confronting the malign funds that are the entry to derail the economy, derail democracy, and somehow affect the possibility of the well- being of our region. “
In March, President Biden announced that he was designating Colombia as a major non-NATO ally. That status brings with it certain benefits in the fields of defense, trade, and security cooperation. The announcement came during a meeting with Colombia’s President Ivan Duque.
Fox News’ Kelsey Koberg and The Associated Press contributed to this report.