Central America
Sino-Russian Influence in Central America

The Spread of Russian and Chinese Influence in Central America. By Javier Ramón Meléndez Quiñónez
Sino-Russian Influence in Central America Report

As authoritarian regimes in Central America cozy up to Russia and China, they are inadvertently opening the door to a pernicious campaign of disinformation, propaganda, and anti-democratic machinations that threaten the region's fragile democracies and long-standing alliances with the West.

© Image by FNF. Report by Javier Ramón Meléndez Quiñónez

Leveraging Autocracies, Exploiting Vulnerabilities, and Undermining Democracy

In recent years, Russia and China have intensified their efforts to expand their influence and presence in Central America, exploiting the region's vulnerabilities and the acquiescence of autocratic leaders eager to circumvent democratic norms and consolidate their grip on power. This strategic offensive is driven by a confluence of interests, including Russia's desire to undermine U.S. hegemony in its traditional sphere of influence and China's ambition to establish economic and political dominance through its Belt and Road Initiative and predatory lending practices.

At the heart of this insidious campaign is a well-orchestrated disinformation and propaganda blitz aimed at discrediting Western values, promoting anti-American narratives, and legitimizing the authoritarian practices of Central American regimes. Russia, in particular, has leveraged its close ties with Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega to establish a media network that disseminates Kremlin-approved narratives about the war in Ukraine, while China has employed a multi-pronged approach involving digital activism, media cooperation, and journalist exchanges to shape public opinion in its favor.

As Central American leaders embrace these malign influences, they are not only eroding their countries' democratic institutions and accountability mechanisms but also jeopardizing the region's long-standing economic and strategic partnerships with the United States and its allies. To counter this threat, a concerted effort by global democracies is needed, involving the strengthening of independent media, civil society organizations, and democratic institutions, as well as increased economic investment and cooperation that reinforces the benefits of adhering to Western norms and values.

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    Leveraging Autocracies, Exploiting Vulnerabilities, and Undermining Democracy