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China’s Expanding Footprint in Latin America: Security Concerns Rise in Washington Amid Deepening Ties with Cuba

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Leaders in Washington and Beijing are working to improve U.S.-China relations. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with President Xi Jinping in China in June 2023 to reopen communication lines between the countries. Janet Yellen, the Treasury Secretary, is also visiting China for four days starting July 6, 2023, to stabilize U.S.-China economic ties.

However, the security issues between the two countries may take longer to address. In February 2023, the U.S. military shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon flying over the country, derailing Blinken’s planned diplomatic trip to China. Recent news reports suggest that China is making deals with Cuba to set up an electronic eavesdropping station on the island nation, just 90 miles from Florida. These efforts reflect China’s aim to grow its influence in Latin America and the Caribbean.

A Biden administration official stated in June that China’s spying from Cuba is an ongoing issue and that U.S. intelligence knew China had upgraded existing espionage facilities in Cuba in 2019. China’s planned spy base and military training facility in Cuba would be located near the U.S. naval station in Guantanamo Bay.

This location would allow Chinese intelligence officers to intercept sensitive military information transmitted between U.S. military commands, track senior U.S. diplomatic and military leaders, monitor U.S. naval and commercial ship movements, and gain details about U.S. military exercises, conferences, and training with various Latin American and Caribbean countries. It could also help China spy on U.S. citizens through telecommunications networks.

U.S. officials have long suspected Chinese telecommunications companies such as Huawei and ZTE of setting up servers and network equipment around the world, including in Cuba, to collect sensitive information about local government leaders and private citizens.

Chinese companies such as China Harbor Engineering Company have constructed dozens of deep-water port projects in Latin American and Caribbean countries, where Chinese intelligence agencies could track U.S. commercial or naval ship movements around important sea lanes like the Panama Canal. This could help China understand where to restrict U.S. maritime routes during a potential military conflict.

Chinese companies have also built or operated 12 space research facilities in South America that can be used for legitimate space research. However, U.S. officials have voiced concern that these same sites could be used to spy on U.S. satellites and intercept sensitive information. Additionally, Chinese police forces are becoming a growing presence around the world.

In April 2023, the FBI arrested two Chinese citizens for allegedly operating an illegal police station in New York City’s Chinatown. China allegedly operates 100 of these police outposts worldwide, with 14 of them in eight Latin American and Caribbean countries. China has also been donating anti-bullet vests, helmets, and vehicles to local security forces and training Latin American and Caribbean law enforcement officers.

Chinese technology companies Huawei, ZTE, Dahua, and Hikvision have donated surveillance cameras and facial recognition technology to city governments in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guyana, and Suriname. While these technologies help Latin American and Caribbean governments reduce crime, they could also be used to spy on U.S. government personnel living in these countries. The U.S. has banned some of these companies out of concern they spy for the Chinese government. China’s participation in law enforcement activities in these countries undermines the U.S.’s position as the region’s preferred security partner.

Moreover, the supply of the drug fentanyl has become a major source of conflict between the U.S. and China. In April 2023, the Biden administration declared fentanyl an emerging threat to U.S. national security. The fentanyl global supply chain starts in various pharmaceutical company labs in China and often ends on U.S. streets. The U.S. Treasury and Justice departments have sanctioned or charged several Chinese companies and individuals for knowingly selling fentanyl precursors to Mexican cartel operatives, who then produce the deadly fentanyl and sell it to Americans.

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Chris Cash: The UK Parliamentary Researcher Accused of Spying for Beijing Authorities

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In March of this year, a British parliamentary researcher was arrested on suspicion of being a Chinese spy. The researcher, Chris Cash, was revealed to be a 28-year-old history graduate with links to many Tory MPs. He had been seen associating with senior Tories such as security minister Tom Tugendhat and Foreign Affairs Committee chair Alicia Kearns. Cash was believed to have been recruited as a sleeper agent while living and working in China and sent back to the UK to infiltrate political networks critical of the Beijing regime.

Cash was the leader of the China Research Group, a body advocating for a more hawkish British policy towards China. Co-founded by Tory ministers Tom Tugendhat and Neil O’Brien in April 2020, the group focused on industrial, technological, and foreign policy issues. The group’s website claimed that it aimed to provide informed knowledge on China and promote debate and fresh thinking about how Britain should respond to the rise of China.

Chris Cash was arrested in Edinburgh and released on bail until early October, along with another suspect. It is unclear how much access Cash had to foreign affairs intelligence or what kind of influence he may have held in Westminster. While he held a parliamentary pass, he did not have security clearance.

China has denied all accusations of involvement in an espionage scheme involving Cash, calling them malicious slander.

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Pope Sends Prayers to Comfort Morocco Earthquake Victims as Death Toll Surpasses 2,000

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On Sunday, Pope Francis expressed his prayers and support for the victims of the powerful earthquake that hit Morocco, resulting in the highest number of fatalities in over 60 years. During his Angelus message, he prayed for those injured and those who lost their lives, along with their families.

The Pope also expressed his gratitude towards the rescue workers who are working tirelessly to help the victims. He concluded by saying that they stand in solidarity with the people of Morocco during this difficult time.

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African Union’s Inclusion in G20: A Significant Acknowledgment of a Continent with 1 Billion Inhabitants

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The world’s most powerful economies, the G20, have welcomed the African Union (AU) as a permanent member, recognising Africa’s more than 50 countries as important players on the global stage. US President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi both expressed support for the AU’s permanent membership.

The AU has advocated for full membership for seven years and, until now, South Africa was the only African country in the G20. The AU represents a continent with a young population of 1.3 billion, which is set to double by 2050 and make up a quarter of the world’s population.

Africa’s 55 member states have long pushed for meaningful roles in global bodies, including the United Nations Security Council, and want reforms to the global financial system. The continent is increasingly attracting investment and political interest from global powers like China, Russia, Gulf nations, Turkey, Israel, and Iran. African leaders are challenging the framing of the continent as passive victim and want to be brokers instead.

They seek fairer treatment by financial institutions, delivery of rich countries’ long-promised $100 billion a year in climate financing for developing nations, and a global tax on fossil fuels. The AU’s full G20 membership will enable it to represent a continent that’s home to the world’s largest free trade area and abundant resources needed to combat climate change. The African continent has 60% of the world’s renewable energy assets and over 30% of the minerals key to renewable and low-carbon technologies.

African leaders want more industrial development closer to home to benefit their economies. Finding a common position among the AU’s member states, from economic powers to some of the world’s poorest nations, can be challenging, but Africa will need to speak with one voice to influence G20 decision-making. African leaders have shown their willingness to take collective action, as seen during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a high-profile G20 member, Africa’s demands will be harder to ignore.

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