Trump administration officials and Democrats in Congress cannot agree on almost anything, but they are increasingly voicing the same concern when it comes to Latin America: Russia will try to influence the upcoming elections in Mexico, Colombia and other countries in the region. After returning from a five-country Latin American tour, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday: “We see some of Russia’s fingerprints around elections that have occurred in Europe. … We are seeing similar activity in this hemisphere.” He added, “There are a number of important elections in this hemisphere this year.” Tillerson did not cite any specific Latin American country, but Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland — a leading member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — told me in an interview Wednesday that he has no doubt Russian President Vladimir Putin will try to interfere in this year’s elections in Mexico and Colombia.
Cardin recently released a 206-page Senate Foreign Relations Democratic staff report entitled, “Putin’s assymetrical assault on democracy in Russia and Europe.” It details Russia’s efforts to influence the U.S. 2016 presidential race, as well as actions to sway elections in Germany, France, Spain and other European countries.
When I asked Cardin whether he found any indications that Russia may try to do something similar in Mexico — where leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is leading in the race for the July 1 elections — he responded, “We would expect to see that in Mexico and other countries in the hemisphere.” He added that Putin “would like to have a government in Mexico that is not friendly to the United States.”