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Russia Making No Clear Gains With Latin Americans

by Ian T. Brown

Only Venezuelans, Colombians more likely to approve

This is the first in a two-part series on Russia-Latin American relations. The first part reveals Latin American respondents' attitudes toward Russian leadership against the backdrop of strengthening ties. The second part explores views regarding the increased U.S. visibility in the Czech Republic and Poland.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Although Russia has increased its foreign relations with Central and South American countries in recent years, Gallup finds that respondents in those countries are more likely to disapprove than approve of Russia's leadership, while a majority (a median of 62%) express no opinion.


Russia has increased its ties across Latin America in recent years by advancing technology alliances in Argentina and Chile; proposing energy projects in Venezuela, Brazil, and Bolivia; and increasing military cooperation with Nicaragua, Colombia, and Venezuela. On Sept.11, Russia landed two bombers in Venezuela to carry out joint training flights, which Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez celebrated as one more step toward a "multi-polar world."Russia will also hold joint naval exercises with Venezuela in the Caribbean this year.

Nonetheless, Gallup finds many respondents in these Latin American countries do not express an opinion about Russia's leadership. In fact, in most South American countries surveyed, a majority of respondents did not state an opinion either way.


Among respondents who did state an opinion, only Venezuelans and Colombians were statistically more likely to approve than disapprove of Russia's leadership. When comparing approval ratings across time, only in Venezuela was there a net increase. In other countries, ratings have remained relatively steady.


Views Toward Their Own Governments

Many Latin Americans lack opinions on Russia's leadership, but they do state opinions when asked whether they approve or disapprove of their national leadership. However, of the South American countries analyzed, only in Venezuela and Brazil do majorities approve of their leadership and only in Brazil did approval ratings increase between 2007 and 2008. In Venezuela, Bolivia, and Argentina, approval ratings dropped between 2007 and 2008, while in Nicaragua they remained about the same.


The declining approval numbers suggest Russia may be building alliances with increasingly unpopular governments. With the exception of Argentina, the current leadership for each country had already assumed office before Gallup polled in 2007. In Argentina, President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner became president in December 2007, who took office after her husband, who ruled under the same party since May 2003.

The Impact of Russia-Latin America Relations

Despite increased military and economic presence in Latin America, Gallup finds that only small percentages of Latin Americans state an opinion one way or the other regarding Russian leadership. Further, for some South American countries currently engaging in Russian partnerships, Gallup finds lower approval ratings toward their national leadership in 2008 when compared to approval ratings in 2007. If Russia is hoping to court popular favor across Latin American countries by improving relations, these poll results may call into question its efficacy at this time.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face interviews with at least 1,000 adults in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, aged 15 and older, conducted between 2005 and 2008. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.


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