Russian first deputy prime minister Boris Nemtsov arrived in Mexico City on December 7, his second stop on a tour of three Latin American capitals. As he had during a visit to Chile that preceded his arrival in Mexico, Primakov pointed out that he is the most senior Russian government official to visit the region, and he underscored Moscow’s desire to strengthen its economic ties to the region. Nemtsov said that he had brought with him to Mexico a draft agreement on the prevention of double taxation and another on joint guarantees for investments. He also made mention of Russia’s willingness to supply Mexico with "dual-use products," a suggestion that Moscow hopes to increase its sales of defense related goods in the region. Washington has charged that such Russian efforts could ignite an arms race in Latin America.
Nemtsov’s visit to Latin America follows an ambitious tour of the region late last month by Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov, and is in part aimed at preparing for a follow-up visit to the region next year by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. As Nemtsov made clear on several occasions, Moscow views improved ties with the countries of Latin America as part of an effort both to counter Washington’s preponderant influence in the region, and, perhaps more tellingly, to balance the increasingly active role being played by the U.S. in the countries of the former Soviet Union. In comments to Russian journalists yesterday, Nemtsov was quoted as saying that Russia must be present in Latin American, just as the Americans are on the Caspian [Sea], in Central Asia, and in the CIS countries. He also suggested that economic developments in some Latin American countries parallel those in Russia, and that Moscow could learn much from the economies in the region. He is scheduled to visit Venezuela following his talks in Mexico. (Itar-Tass, December 7-9; Russian TV, December 8)
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