The Foreign Service Journal, May 2018

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | MAY 2018 31 like the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Central America and the Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement. In addition, U.S. foreign direct investment in Latin America is twice as great as it was a decade ago, much of it in Brazil andMexico. At the same time, new, influential economic actors have entered the scene. In the last 15 years, China has emerged as a new economic powerhouse in the Americas, and recent Russian economic and political activity in Venezuela is cause for con- cern. Both of these trends bear watching. China tends to concentrate its trade and investment in a few key countries—principally Venezuela, Ecuador, Chile, Peru, Mexico and Brazil—that possess natural resources like oil or minerals, which are of particular interest to Chinese investors. Its volume of trade with the Americas as a whole has skyrocketed, from $12 billion in 2000 to more than $260 billion in 2013. Bei- jing has also stepped up its lending to the region, from $1 billion in 2008 to $37 billion in 2010. Similarly, in 2015, Beijing’s imports from Chile, Peru and Brazil represented 8, 5 and 2.5 percent of each nation’s gross domestic product, respectively. Chinese and, more recently, Russian involvement in Venezu- ela warrants special attention. Historically, the United States has maintained substantial investments in Venezuela and conducted considerable trade, primarily in imports and exports of petroleum and its derivatives, with that country. However, the exploitation of new domestic reserves has reduced our dependence on imported oil, while the imposition of sanctions against the Chavez and Maduro regimes, and the growing economic and political turmoil in Venezuela, have curbed the appetite of U.S. investors. Moscow and Beijing have both moved into the resulting vacuum. Russia’s state-owned oil company, Rosneft, has extended at least $17 billion in loans and credit to Caracas since 2006, giving more than $1 billion in April 2017 alone. On at least two occa- sions, this influx of Russian cash reportedly kept the Venezuelan government from defaulting on its foreign loans. In exchange, Moscow has been promised future oil shipments, acquired ownership interests in some of Venezuela’s more profitable oil projects and gained greater control over Venezuela’s crude reserves. Venezuela’s National Police use tear gas and plastic pellet gunshot against protesting students in Altamira Plaza in Caracas in 2014. COURTESYOFANDRESE.ASPURUA [CCBY-SA3.0]/WIKIMEDIACOMMONSHOUSE A protestor at the national strike in Guatemala in 2015 holds a sign saying "Not my President," referring to then-President Otto Fernando Pérez Molina, who left office on Sept. 2, 2015, and was arrested the following day on charges of corruption. NERDOGUATE [CCBY-SA4.0]/WIKIMEDIACOMMONS