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In Latin America and Asia, Canada supports the US government’s new Cold War

Washington and Ottawa are openly challenging the economic influence of their geopolitical competitors around the world

Canadian PoliticsAsiaLatin America and the CaribbeanUSA Politics

The amphibious transport dock ship USS John P. Murtha (foreground) and Peruvian navy Makassar-class landing platform dock ship BAP Pisco (background) conduct tactical maneuvers and naval formations during a training exercise in the Pacific Ocean. Photo by James Ho/US Navy/Wikimedia Commons.

Over the past few weeks, two events have occurred that seem unrelated, but are deeply interconnected.

First, the US government dispatched roughly 1,000 military personnel to Peru to participate in a joint military exercise between June and August. Their arrival coincides with the return of pro-democracy protests aimed at applying pressure to the unelected right-wing government of Dina Boluarte (who took power after elected President Pedro Castillo’s removal in December 2022).

Second, Ottawa halted its cooperation with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a multilateral development bank comprised of 106 member states, alleging that it is “dominated by [Chinese] Communist Party members.”

Both of these events shine a light on the nature of Canadian foreign policy in the current geopolitical context.

Countering China in Peru

Not only have Canadian officials offered no condemnation of the Boluarte government’s repression of Indigenous-led protests, which has killed almost 70 protestors and injured thousands—Ottawa has also said nothing about the US government sending troops to Peru shortly before the reactivation of anti-Boluarte demonstrations.

The protestors’ demands include freedom for Castillo, early elections, and a national referendum on convening an assembly to rewrite the neoliberal constitution imposed under far-right dictator Alberto Fujimori. The Peruvian government has refused all of these demands. They are continuing to prosecute Castillo, refusing to convene an assembly to rewrite a constitution that 69 percent of Peruvians want replaced, and are rejecting early elections. The Peruvian government is now promising to rule until July 2026, despite the fact that Boluarte, as well as the right-wing Congress that empowers her, have an 80 and 91 percent disapproval rating, respectively.

Despite being reviled by the public, Boluarte has the strong support of Washington and Ottawa—whose governments are drooling over Peru’s critical mineral wealth and are keen on denying Russia and China access to them—as well as Peru’s economic elite. While only 12 percent of Peruvians approve of her rule, she is supported by 71 percent of CEOs in the country. More than one hundred chief executives of Peru’s largest companies are “beginning to banish from their risk map the possibility of an early departure from the government of President Dina Boluarte.” In other words, they are pleased that her repressive measures are preventing the democratic demands of protestors from being implemented.

In late May, amidst public hatred and more planned resistance, the Boluarte government authorized the entry of US military personnel into Peru, supposedly to train Peruvian soldiers and police. This is an undemocratic and illegitimate action, taken by an unelected and unpopular government, in the context of a resurgence of public resistance. Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez attempted to halt the training exercises by introducing an addendum to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to prevent joint military cooperation with governments found to abuse human rights, but the House of Representatives rejected it.

The Boluarte government has already extended states of emergency in mining regions, on several national highways, and all departmental and regional highways. As the protests planned for July 19 move ahead, one cannot help but consider the presence of US troops on the ground. As Nick Corbishley writes:

The de facto Boluarte government and Congress are treating the arrival of US troops as a perfectly routine event… But the timing of the operation [raises] serious questions. After all, Peru is currently under the control of an unelected government that is heavily supported by Washington but overwhelmingly rejected by the Peruvian people. The crackdown on protests in the south of… Peru by the country’s security forces—the same security forces that US military personnel will soon be joining—has led to dozens of deaths. Peru’s Congress is refusing to call new elections in total defiance of public opinion [and] the country’s Supreme Court issued a ruling that some legal scholars have interpreted as essentially criminalizing political protest.


With the removal of Castillo and the violent criminalization of dissent, the Peruvian government is firmly in the hands of the military, which is closely tied to the US. In Peru, protests in the name of democracy—which in places like Hong Kong and Russia received the breathless support of the US and Canadian governments—are being totally ignored by Biden and Trudeau. Worse, the US and Canadian corporate class, especially mining companies, are complicit in the repression.

Despite the Boluarte government’s massacres of protestors, Export Development Canada (EDC) is continuing to promote Peru as a stable and reliable source of investment for Canadian mining companies, given the country’s “strong macroeconomic credentials, friendly business environment and wide range of investment opportunities.” The website of the Canadian Trade Commissioner mentions protests and road blockades, but characterizes them as nuisances that “challenge” Canadian investments: “Social conflict including blockades trigger temporary shut down of operations and can impede contract fulfillment as distribution avenues are blocked or client purchase orders are stalled.”

The Canadian government views Peru as a source of the minerals needed to establish a “Western supply chain” which will allow Canada to delink its supply of critical minerals and low-carbon technology from China and more directly confront Beijing in the Pacific and elsewhere. It is a dangerous strategy in line with Washington’s efforts to maintain its global privileges. From Ottawa’s viewpoint, the pro-democracy protests in Peru are simply a hassle which are delaying the fulfillment of this perilous “new Cold War” strategy. This is why the Trudeau government is saying nothing—thus tacitly supporting—the transfer of US military personnel to Peru. The more quickly the protests are suppressed, the more quickly Canadian companies can exploit Peruvian minerals and achieve the economic and geopolitical goals of the Critical Minerals Strategy.

An aim of the US-Peru military exercises is “training alongside US forces [which] will help to improve the capabilities and strengthen the operational performance of [Peruvian] Special Forces, boosting their interoperability with NATO systems and doctrine.” Efforts to integrate the Peruvian military with NATO come amidst Western concerns about Chinese investment in the country, particularly in the lucrative and geopolitically significant mining sector, and NATO’s moves to expand its influence in Latin America. The Peruvian military has openly stated its desire for Peru to join NATO. And, at the 2022 NATO Summit in Madrid, Spanish King Felipe VI offered to serve as a bridge between NATO leadership and Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America, with the apparent goal of increasing NATO’s presence in the region.

Given that, according to SOUTHCOM head Laura Richardson, the US government wants to “box out” Russia and China from Latin America’s strategic resource supply, NATO’s intentions in the region are obvious: undermine the influence of geopolitical foes and secure access to lucrative resources, democracy be damned. This is the policy that the Canadian government is supporting in Peru. It is a policy that has led to massacres, racist police violence, and utter disdain for the concept of democratic governance.

A protester in the centre of Lima holds a sign that reads: “Dina Boluarte, resign.” Photo by Zoe Alexandra.

Undermining the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank

Canada’s recent decision to sever ties with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is another move aimed at undermining China to promote the West’s position in the new Cold War. As Yves Engler puts it:

The resignation of the senior Canadian at the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank [Bob Pickard] is a boost to Washington’s bid to undermine the multilateral financial institution. Calling for Canada to withdraw because the bank ‘serves to increase China’s power’ reflects a hypocritical, pro-US, position.


Pickard’s resignation from the AIIB received widespread press coverage in Canada, producing many articles fearmongering about China’s supposed use of the bank as a way to increase its regional influence. However, those bemoaning China’s “politicization” of the AIIB have nothing to say about the deeply political actions of international financial institutions (IFIs) supported by Washington and Ottawa, namely the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, which have long pressured states around the world to impose unpopular and immiserating austerity reforms called “structural adjustment.”

The structural adjustment reforms supported by the US and Canada consistently have negative effects, such as decreased access to health care and other public services, decreased food sovereignty and nutritional intake, weak job security, and so on. These changes disproportionately affect the most vulnerable people in those societies. Nevertheless, there is little concern among Western states for how the inherently political actions of Western-run IFIs impact the social and economic fabric of countries around the world. There is certainly no consideration for how the imposition of the neoliberal model serves the new Cold War strategy by giving the West a preferential foothold in the strategic resource markets of countries across the globe.

In Engler’s words:

Pickard offered little evidence of Beijing manipulating the institution to its ends even though there is copious evidence of the West doing so with the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, etc. Canada has repeatedly backed highly politicized measures by the Western-dominated multilateral financial institutions [in Pinochet’s Chile, in apartheid South Africa, and elsewhere].

A spineless foreign policy

In Peru, Canada is actively supporting the unelected Boluarte government and tacitly supporting Washington’s decision to send troops to Peru amidst resurgent pro-democracy protests. Canadian policy toward Peru is influenced by the geopolitics of its Critical Minerals Strategy, which aims to use investment-friendly states to limit its reliance on Chinese technological inputs, regardless of those states’ democratic legitimacy. The endgame of Canada’s strategy is unclear, but it often appears to be a direct military confrontation with China.

The AIIB withdrawal was motivated by the same factors that are driving Canada to support the repression of democracy in Peru: the undermining of Chinese influence and the gradual delinking of the Canadian economy from China.

Ottawa has conscripted itself to Washington’s new Cold War, which aims to challenge the economic influence of its geopolitical competitors around the world. In Latin America and Asia, Canada is once more showing its foreign policy to be spineless, little more than a reflection of the demands of Canadian capital and the US empire.

Owen Schalk is a writer from Manitoba. His book on Canada’s role in the war in Afghanistan will be released by Lorimer in September. You can preorder it here. To see more of his work, visit www.owenschalk.com.

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