Bipartisan group of lawmakers calls on Russia to stay out of Latin American elections

Bipartisan group of lawmakers calls on Russia to stay out of Latin American elections
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A bipartisan group of House members on Tuesday introduced a resolution calling on Russia and other unnamed actors not to interfere in a flurry of Latin American elections happening this year.

The resolution, introduced by Reps. Norma Torres (D-Calif.), Ted PoeLloyd (Ted) Theodore PoeSenate Dem to reintroduce bill with new name after 'My Little Pony' confusion Texas New Members 2019 Cook shifts two House GOP seats closer to Dem column MORE (R-Texas), Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelHouse Democrats expected to unveil articles of impeachment Tuesday House approves two-state resolution in implicit rebuke of Trump House leaders: Trump administration asking South Korea to pay more for US troops 'a needless wedge' MORE (D-N.Y.) and Francis RooneyLaurence (Francis) Francis RooneyDemocrats gear up for high-stakes Judiciary hearing Amash says he will vote in favor of articles of impeachment Billboards calling on House Republicans to 'do their job' follow members home for Thanksgiving MORE (R-Fla.) says Moscow "has repeatedly attempted to interfere in democratic elections,” including the 2016 vote in the U.S.

Nearly half a billion people live in Latin American nations with 2018 elections. The region's largest countries, Brazil and Mexico, will have presidential elections, as will Colombia, the closest U.S. ally in the region.

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“It is outrageous that Vladimir Putin has faced virtually no consequences for Russia’s interference in our 2016 presidential election. It sends the signal that it’s open season on democratic institutions — not just in the United States but around the world," said Engel, the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
 

Accusations of Russian interference in the region have popped up as the elections approach, but they've been met with skepticism, particularly in Mexico. In January, left-wing populist front-runner Andrés Manuel López Obrador ridiculed allegations that Russia supports him, mockingly taking on the nickname Andrés Manuelovich.

Former national security adviser H.R. McMaster said in December that the intelligence community "has seen indications" of Russian interference in Mexico, prompting López Obrador's retort.

And experts have raised concerns about the region's preparedness for interference, whether it comes from the Kremlin or internal actors.

"We need to be ready to help our allies in the region deal with threats to their elections, whether those threats come from Russians, or drug traffickers, or corrupt government officials who are promoting fake news, manipulating social networks, or otherwise distorting the democratic process,” Torres said.

The resolution also describes Venezuela, a country that will hold presidential elections in May, as a "dictatorship."

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has grown increasingly isolated in the region, but he's monopolized power within his country, essentially wiping out all organized political opposition.

Populist candidates have gained popularity throughout the region, as voters grow impatient with slow economic growth.

"Nowhere is the success of democracy more important than within our own neighborhood. Tragically, however, we are witnessing an erosion of democracy in parts of the Western hemisphere, along with attempts by despotic foreign powers like Russia and China, among others, to undermine the sanctity of elections. This must not stand," Poe said.

The resolution also reaffirms United States support for the Inter-American Democratic Charter and "international election observation missions, such as those led by the Organization of American States (OAS) and the European Union (EU)." 

That could be seen as a rebuke of President TrumpDonald John TrumpSanders urges impeachment trial 'quickly' in the Senate US sending 20,000 troops to Europe for largest exercises since Cold War Barr criticizes FBI, says it's possible agents acted in 'bad faith' in Trump probe MORE's policies in the region, as his administration endorsed last year's Honduran election, despite concerns on its validity raised by both OAS and EU observers.