EXCLUSIVE: A top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee warned about the growing influence of the Chinese Communist Party in Latin America – on his return from a trip to the region, where he spoke with officials about the dangers of the geopolitical adversary .
Led by Rep. August Pfluger, R-Texas, is a congressional delegation to the region, which includes Brazil, Colombia and Panama. Lawmakers held talks with government officials and representatives from the private sector. They also toured the Darien Gap region and had briefings from law enforcement officials in several countries.
Much attention has focused on the flow of US migrants through the gap, as migrants from countries such as Venezuela head north to try and enter the US amid an ongoing border crisis at the US- Mexico.
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But Pfluger is alert to other threats the US has to deal with – telling Fox News Digital in an interview that the Chinese Communist Party “is present in this region, they are present in trade relations, they are present in telecommunications, they are present with desire to build ports and use their own tactics.”
“And so we have to work in this area because it’s not just about the issues we see on our border,” he said.
Last month, it was revealed that China was seeking to build a listening post in Cuba, something the US government called an “ongoing issue.”
Meanwhile, other lawmakers also highlighted the threat. Sen. Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., warned about the threat of Chinese influence in what he said was a “vacuum” left due to a lack of US leadership.
In talks with government officials, Pfluger, who is chairman of the Counterterrorism, Law Enforcement, and Intelligence Subcommittee, said he brought up the threat repeatedly.
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“My message to the foreign ministers in these countries was very simple. I basically said ‘You and your countries have to push back, and you have to be clear-eyed about what the goals of the Communist Party of China.’ And I think they were a little surprised when they heard such a strong message.”
Pfluger noted that Panama has signed on to aspects of the Chinese Belt & Road Initiative in recent years and trades with the regime. Pfluger said this is a key area where China is seeking more control.
“The Panama Canal is a very strategic point and the Chinese want to control both the Pacific and the Atlantic to build ports, to build projects that will give them a greater level of control over the Panama Canal. So when you’re talking about the shipping — of course, if you control the shipping line that goes through there, you can really move the needle and influence the region,” he said.
“I didn’t mince my words to the foreign minister of Colombia and the foreign minister of Panama, when I said, ‘We need you as a partner to push back against the Chinese Communist Party, especially in the area of ports and telecommunications , because they want to destroy the Western world and freedom,'” he said.
Pfluger said the ongoing migrant and drug crisis across the continent and into the US is related to Chinese influence in the region.
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“If the Chinese Communist Party can gain a foothold in those countries, think about the increase in narcotic trafficking and human trafficking that will exist,” he said.
He also said there were signs of an increase in specific routes set up by trafficking organizations to fly from China to South America and move north.
“We have seen Chinese high-value targets in my district arrested and captured over the past two years, and the increase has increased dramatically. And so the malign activity, if they are going to have influence in these countries, is will continue to rise. in many other areas,” he said.
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“We know that the Chinese Communist Party wants to undermine the United States in any and all areas that they possibly can. And that starts with having a foothold on partners. And, you know, maybe it starts with economy and it doesn’t look that serious. But we know it’s serious because we’ve seen it all over the world.”