‘Further conversations’ needed around Latin America sanctions against Russia – Tánaiste

Region opposed to Ukraine invasion but there is ‘reluctance’ around penalties, Varadkar says

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar says "further conversations" are required to turn widespread condemnation by Latin American nations of the invasion of Ukraine into sanctions by the region against Russia.

Mr Varadkar was speaking after attending the inauguration of Chile's new president Gabriel Boric on behalf of Ireland and the European Union.

As well as Mr Boric the Tánaiste also met with several other regional leaders including Uruguay's president Luis Lacalle Pou and the vice-president of Brazil, Hamilton Mourão.

Mr Varadkar said there is a “strong view” in the region opposed to the invasion. “But there is a reluctance to join with the rest of the West in sanctions on Russia and isolating it. That is what the European Union is going to ask Latin American countries to do, to turn very strong condemnation into joining us in taking action against Russia. But this will require further conversations,” he said.

Mr Boric, who at 36 became Chile’s youngest ever president at Friday’s swearing-in ceremony in the port city of Valparaíso, has described Russia’s invasion of its neighbour as “an illegitimate use of force”.

Most other regional administrations have also denounced Moscow's actions, with the exception of its allies Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. Bolivia and El Salvador also abstained in the United Nations General Assembly vote that overwhelming condemned Russia's actions.

But so far no government in the region has joined European states, the United States and their allies in imposing economic sanctions on Moscow. Even as his government voted to condemn the invasion at the UN, Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro publicly declared his country neutral in the conflict. On Saturday Mr Bolsonaro said relations with Moscow were "all fine" despite Brazil's position at the UN and celebrated the continuation of trade between the two countries.

Brazilian authorities and the country's powerful agricultural sector have feared a Russian ban on exports of fertilisers due to the conflict. A leading food producer Brazil's farming sector is highly dependent on imports for its fertiliser needs with Russia and Belarus its two largest suppliers. Mr Bolsonaro visited his counterpart Vladimir Putin in Moscow days before the invasion of Ukraine saying his top priority was to prevent any interruption to fertiliser imports. Moscow has threatened to halt these exports as a result of the conflict but so far has not done so. No Latin American state is included on the list of "unfriendly countries" published by the Putin regime last week.

During his visit to Chile Mr Varadkar also formally opened the new Irish embassy in Santiago. The new mission is part of Ireland's strategy for Latin America and the Caribbean launched last month which aims to step up engagement with the 33 countries in the region.

This week the Tánaiste also visits Colombia where he will open a new embassy in the capital Bogatá and have talks with President Ivan Duque. The two new embassies double Ireland's diplomatic footprint in South America which has until now relied on the missions in Buenos Aires and Brasília to provide coverage for the continent. A fifth embassy on the continent is being planned within the next few years. The new regional initiative is part of the Global Ireland strategy, in which the State is seeking to deepen ties with the rest of the world by doubling its international presence in response to Brexit.

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