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CWIHP e-Dossier No. 65

List of Documents

Document 1 –  Soviet Report, Economic Cooperation between Latin America and the Countries of the Socialist Camp
Source: Archive of the Russian Academy of Sciences, f. 1798 op. 1 d. 88 ll. 124-136.

Document 2 – Address by V. V. Volsky on Trends in the Economic Development of Latin America
Source: Archive of the Russian Academy of Sciences, f. 1858 op. 1 d. 22 ll. 107-132.

Document 3 – Report on the Work of the Soviet Exhibition in Mexico Year 1959
Source: Russian State Archive of the Economy, f. 635, op. 1, d. 392, ll. 1-12. 

Document 4 – [Excerpt], Soviet Report, Mexico: Economic Situation and Prospects of Development of Economic Ties with the Soviet Union
Source: Russian State Archive of the Economy, f.645, op. 1, d. 31. l. 481-483.

Document 5 – 27 June 1962, TASS Correspondent in Mexico A. A. Pavlenko, Memorandum of Conversation with Alfredo Perera Mena
Source: Russian State Archive of the Economy, f. 365, op. 2, d. 340, ll. 88-90.

Document 6 – 23 June 1964, Report by the Soviet Academy of Sciences Institute of Latin America, Mexico: Politics, Ideology, and the Economy
Source: Archive of the Russian Academy of Sciences, f. 1858, op. 1. d. 109, l. 1-32.

 Mexican-Soviet relations, 1958-1964: The Limits of EngagementVanni Pettinà 


During Adolfo López Mateos’ presidency (1958-1964), México’s foreign policy became increasingly more dynamic. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Mexico skillfully dealt with the Cuban Revolution, a process that presented immense domestic policy challenges and put pressure on Mexico’s relationship with the United States.[1] At the same time, during López Mateos’ term, Mexico struggled to diversify its political and economic relations, attempting to lighten its strong political and economic dependency on the United States. For example, as part of this strategy, Mexico approached the non-Aligned Movement and took part in the Latin American Free Trade Zone. Additionally, through López Mateos’ numerous official trips abroad, Mexico established political and economic relations with numerous Asian countries such as India, the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia.[2] After the cooling period which followed the beginning of the Cold War, México under López Mateos also intensified its interaction with the Soviet Union.

In spite of this activity and its implications in terms of Mexican history, historiography has mostly neglected both this period and these events. Thus, with the exception of Mexican-Cuban relations, we still do not know much about the political debate which surrounded Mexican attempts to “globalize” its foreign policy and the political or economic rationales underlying López Mateos’ autonomous streak. Within this context, the status of the relations between Mexico and the Soviet Union after 1945 represents a black hole which has not yet received proper attention by specialized literature.[3]

At the same time, although there have been many new studies on the Soviet Union’s foreign policy toward the Third World, we lack an updated and comprehensive historiographical reflection on Soviet Union’s post WWII foreign policy toward Latin America. The paucity of studies is particularly striking since, from the mid-1950s under the leadership of Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet Union tried to expand its political and economic influence over the Third World, including Latin America.[4]

The Soviet documents presented here show that Moscow had a strong interest in strengthening its relations with Latin America and, by consequence, with the biggest Spanish-speaking country in the world, México, which also happened to share a 2,000 mile border with the USSR’s global competitor, the United States. This interest, which increased after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in January 1959, was reciprocated by numerous Latin American countries, including López Mateos’ México. México saw in the improvement of its relations with Moscow a chance to diversify its commercial relations and accelerate Mexico’s process of state-led economic development.

This essay aims to both introduce and contextualize a new set of primary sources coming from the former Soviet Union’s archives. The six documents presented here focus on USSR’s political and economic relations with Mexico and, to some extent, with Latin America between 1958 and 1964. The bulk of the documents come from different collections at RGAE’s and RAE’s archives in Moscow, respectively the archive of the former Soviet Union’s Ministry of Economy and the archive of the Academy of Science. The documentation includes notes, reports and analysis focused on Mexico and the Western Hemisphere, produced by Soviet specialists from the Academy of Science, diplomats and journalists. In addition to this material, this essay also relies on Soviet primary sources from the Foreign Ministry Archive, quoted in notes, although not published in full text here. This article does not represent a comprehensive treatment of Soviet-Mexican relations during the late 1950s and early 1960s. However, it offers a historical contextualization of the documents both in terms of Mexican and Soviet international history and tries determine their significance for understanding the nature of bilateral relations between the two countries. This collection represents the first publication of Soviet primary sources on Soviet-Mexican relations after World War II.

On the one hand, the documents show the presence of an interesting convergence between Khrushchev’s foreign policy, directed at strengthening Moscow’s presence in the Third World, and hence in Latin America, and Adolfo López Mateos’ goal of steering his country toward a more independent foreign policy, while also accelerating the pace of the country’s economic development. On the other hand, the documents also show how this partnership was limited by Washington’s hegemonic constraints on Mexico’s autonomy, in part also because of Soviet difficulties to project its influence in Latin America and Mexico at the beginning of the 1960s.

Adolfo López Mateos’ México and Nikita Khrushchev’s Soviet Union: Converging on the Third World

Adolfo López Mateos was elected president of Mexico at a time when the country stood at a difficult crossroads. After the conclusion of World War II, following a common regional pattern, Mexican governments had decidedly bet on industrialization as a strategy to undertake a radical economic and social modernization of the country. Between 1950 and 1962, Mexico’s economic growth averaged 6.2% per year, mainly thanks to an import-substitution strategy which favored the expansion of the industrial sector, an increase in commodity exports and an expansion of state regulatory intervention in the economy.[5] Along with the impressive economic growth, the country’s social mobility registered an important dynamism, with the middle class expanding from 16% of the population in 1940 to 29% at the end of the 1960s.[6]

Nonetheless, by 1957, the Mexican economic model had begun to show signs of slowdown. By the end of the decade the Mexican economy was not generating enough currency to import industrial capitals, a cornerstone of the import substitution industrialization process.[7] The mining and farming sectors, which during the 1950s had generated currency through the export of their products, were suffering from declining international prices for commodity goods and from increasing international protectionism.[8] As a consequence, between 1957 and 1961, Mexico’s GDP growth decreased from an average of 6% during 1939-57 to 4-5%.[9] This rate was still robust, but for a country with a 3% annual demographic increase, any signal of economic downturn posed a serious threat to the sustainability of the national development process.[10]

The Mexican government credited this disequilibrium to factors such as First World protectionism and the chronic decrease in the prices of commodities against the increase of industrial prices. In joint declarations with the president of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, López Mateos, for example, asserted his opinion that the solution to Mexico’s problems depended on the creation of a more balanced and fair international economic order. The President argued that economic assistance in itself was not enough. It was also necessary that developing countries obtained fair prices for their goods and that they had a chance to sell their semi-processed and manufactured products to the more developed countries.[11]

Indeed, López Mateos’ international activism, epitomized by his trips through South America and Asia and by his approach to the non-Aligned Movement, was rooted in the President’s attempt to diversify the country’s political and commercial relations, with the aim of strengthening the Mexican economic model. Within this context, Mexico was also intrigued by the possibility of a new involvement with the Socialist block and the Soviet Union, which had launched an ambitious new strategy of expansion in the Third World.

After Stalin’s death in 1953, the new Soviet establishment led by Nikita Khrushchev undertook a deep reappraisal of the superpower’s foreign policy. Considering the setbacks of Stalin’s exclusive focus on Europe and his consequent lack of interest toward the Third World, Khrushchev turned Moscow’s attention toward the so-called peripheries. Under the Peaceful Coexistence doctrine launched in 1955, Khrushchev reframed the conflict with the West less as a direct military confrontation and more as a competition between opposite economic and societal models. Symbolically epitomized by Khrushchev and Bulganin’s “triumphal trip” to India in 1955, the bipolar competition gradually shifted towards the peripheries of the World throughout the decade. In these regions, the decolonization process and economic underdevelopment represented fertile grounds for testing Moscow and Washington’s recipes for modernity.[12] Support for Liberation Movements in the decolonizing world or technical-economic aid to developing countries became Moscow’s approach to the global South.[13]

Although, at this stage, Asia, North Africa and the Middle East were the primary targets of Moscow’s new strategy, Latin America was also part of the Soviet agenda, especially after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in January 1959 and Fidel Castro’s shift toward the Soviet Union in 1960.

At the time of Stalin’s death, Moscow had little expertise in Latin America and limited political and economic relations with Latin American countries. During the 1950s, however, Soviet relations with the Western Hemisphere underwent a robust intensification and by the early 1960s Moscow had also improved its theoretical analysis of the continent. In August 1953, months after Stalin’s death, Argentina signed a commercial and payment treaty with the USSR and by the end of the decade it was using Czechoslovak equipment for its coal-concentrating plant in Rio Turbio.[14] At the beginning of 1956, Moscow’s engagement with Latin America, as part of its global shift toward the Third World, was formalized by Soviet Premier Nikolai Bulganin, who extended to the Western Hemisphere his country’s economic, political and technical assistance.[15] As recent studies have shown, by the mid-1950s some Latin American countries had accepted Soviet offers, and by the end of the decade Moscow-Brazilian contacts, interactions, and forms of cooperation had multiplied.[16]         

On 21 November, 1959, a Soviet exhibit was inaugurated in México by Anastas Mikoyan, First Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR, and it was deemed to be a great success by both audiences and critics.[17] During his stay in México, Mikoyan toured the country, using the Mexican presidential airplane, and held official meetings with several Mexican officials, including president López Mateos.[18] In 1961, the first Soviet center of study focusing on Latin America, the Institute of Latin America of the Academy of Science, was created with the objective of conducting elaborate new analysis on the continent, which could serve as the basis of the policy-making process.[19] Until its creation, Latin America was studied by a few scholars associated with the Institute of World Economy and International Relations and the Institute of Universal History.[20] In the summer of 1961, coinciding with the inter-American meeting at Punta del Este, a good-will Soviet delegation visited several Latin American. According to D.D. Degtyar, Vice-President of State Committee on Foreign Economic Relations and one of the participants, the mission was planned following the passage of PCUS Central Committee’s decree no. P316/54 on 21 February in order to take advantage of the new and favorable situation created in Latin America by the triumph of the Cuban Revolution. This, he affirmed in his report of the visit, had broken the Latin American “geographic fatalism” which inevitably placed the continent under the American sphere of influence.[21]

Document number 1, authored by Zinaida Ivanovna Romanova, a leading expert on Latin America’s economic development at the Institute of Latin America and author of many books and articles on the topic, comprises the analytical base upon which the policy of engagement with Latin America rested. Romanova’s note showed the political and analytical optimism which marked the Soviet’s perception of the future of its relations with Latin America at the beginning of the 1960s. The document stressed that the Soviet exhibits in Mexico and Cuba, along with the success of Soviet official trips and trade delegations to several Latin American countries, meant a shift in the international attitudes of the Western Hemisphere nations. Romanova argued that the unequal terms of trade between the US and Latin America were producing, on the one hand, a strong economic and financial dependency on Washington and, on the other hand, low levels of growth. Particularly, because of the structure of economic relations with the US, Latin American countries were facing increasing challenges in their projects of industrialization. According to her analysis, this situation made the possibility of broadening economic and commercial ties with socialist countries more attractive. The document points out that one of the main advantages of strengthening economic relations with the socialist camp was that socialist countries could offer economic aid for the development of the state sector of the economy. In contrast, the United States had been generally reluctant to provide such a kind of assistance, viewing the state “as a dangerous competitor for its trade and industrial monopolies.”[22] In this sense, the document interestingly confirmed that, regardless of an ideological affinity which was actually missing, by the early 1960s Latin American and socialist countries were connected by their pursuit of “high modernity.”[23] Particularly, Latin American countries, according to the document cited here, were potentially interested in “socialist high modernity” as a state-led strategy to accelerate the pace of their economic development and potentially counterbalance their dependence on the United States. This convergence, Romanova pointed out, gave the Soviet Union a considerable advantage over the United States in terms of engagement with Western Hemisphere countries, offering the intensification of economic and trade contacts between the Soviet camp and Argentina, Chile, Brazil and Uruguay as an evidence of this phenomenon.

While Romanova’s document showed a good degree of pragmatism and an approach to Latin America based on the expansion of bilateral economic relations, other Soviet documents, such as Document number 2, authored by Victor Volski, future director of the Institute of Latin America and presenter at the 1962 Conference on National Liberation Movements in Latin America, proved to be more dogmatic.[24]

According to Volski’s analysis, in order to create “an independent national economy” countries in the Western Hemisphere mainly needed industrialization and agrarian reform, as the former was “unthinkable” without the latter. For Volski, Mexico was a clear example of a country that, as a result of its revolution, had implemented a “half away” agrarian reform which, while limited, had enabled the country to begin the transformation of its economic structure. Particularly, because of the agrarian reform, Mexico’s agricultural productivity had increased, “providing the country with a base for the development of industry.” However, the much more radical agrarian reform carried out in Cuba was granting the island, in a shorter period of time and under exceptional domestic and international challenges, an extraordinary expansion of food crops, which between 1958 and 1961 almost doubled. “In the countries of Latin America they are striving right now to reduce them to evolution, not revolution,” argued Volski, probably referring to the Alliance for Progress program, however “this cannot provide such a result which the countries of Latin America need as a basis for further socioeconomic transformations.” Thus, according to Volski’s interpretation, Mexican “half away” agrarian reform was not comparable to the advantages produced by the Cuban revolutionary and more radical approach to land redistribution.

By the same token, according to Volski, in the field of industrialization there could not be genuine advancement within a capitalist framework. Providing an accurate analysis of the main Latin American countries’ industrial experiences, he outlined some of its critical limits. Pointing out to the enduring inequality and inflation, along with structural lack of financial resources, Volski concluded that “only the embarkation of the Latin American countries on a path to joining the world socialist economy, on a path of building socialism, and on a path of democratic transformations solves this contradiction.”

Regardless of ideological rigidities, the documents reveal that the late 1950s and early 1960s was a period of strong self-confidence in the Socialist model of development and thus of optimism in terms of Soviet engagement with the Third World and Latin America. On the one hand, Romanova’s outlook on the intensification of trade and economic relations, and Volski’s perspective on the limits of Latin American agrarian reformism and capitalist industrialism explicate Moscow’s optimism. On the other hand, however, Moscow faced powerful challenges to its strategy of engagement with Latin American countries during the 1960s.

USSR-Mexico: the limits of Engagement

The Soviet exhibit in México City, inaugurated in November of 1959, along with Mikoyan’s tour of Mexico, represented the beginning of a reciprocal attempt to strengthen the political and economic interactions between the two countries after the cooling of bilateral relations which followed the beginning of the Cold War. According to document number 3, a report by the Director of the Soviet exhibit, A. Shelnov, the show, which was visited by one million Mexicans during its 23 day run, represented “the first Soviet exhibition in Latin American countries which provided extensive coverage of a wide variety of the sides of the Soviet state’s life.” [25] The show, which took place at the 8,000 square meter Mexico City National Auditorium, including a 6,000 square meter indoor space, presented approximately 6,000 exhibits, ranging from metal-cutting machines, agricultural and road building machines, tractor, trucks, exploration oil drilling trucks and motorcycles. Many of these items were actually demonstrated in operation and with film projection units showing “in more detail what was not always possible to express completely with full-scale mock-ups only.” The exhibition even included an introductory section which explained to visitors the principles of the Soviet political order and the country’s form of government. The display also highlighted the USSR’s geography, its population, and the key factors underlying the “huge growth of the economy and culture (…) compared to the prerevolutionary Russia.”[26]

Reporting on the exhibit and Mikoyan’s trip through Mexico, the Soviet ambassador in Mexico City, V. Bazykin, stressed the positive results it had produced. According to Bazykin, the exhibit “was able to undermine years of anti-Soviet propaganda, showing what is the reality in the Soviet Union.” Furthermore, using a rather stereotypical quantitative Soviet scale, Bazykin pointed out that Mikoyan had been greeted at the airport by a larger number of Mexican government representatives than the Japanese Prime Minister, Nobusuke Kisi, who had recently visited Mexico and whose country had become an important economic and trade partner for Mexico.[27]

In May 1960, a few months after the conclusion of the exhibit, the influential senator and close aide to president López Mateos, Manuel Moreno Sánchez, visited the USSR and the same president, according to the Soviet Ambassador, had accepted an official invitation to visit the Soviet Union in April-May 1961. By the summer of 1960, this increased interaction had produced an agreement for the sale of 100 tractors and 340 Moskvich cars, and the ambassador mentioned negotiations for the signing of a trade agreement between the two countries. [28]

The speed with which bilateral interactions accelerated during the early 1960s showed the strong mutual interest that connected the two countries; one was hoping to expand its influence on a crucial Latin American country, while the other was hoping to diversify its economic relations at a thorny stage of its development process.

Document number 4, produced by the Academy of Science (aprox. 1960-1961), shows some basic recommendations aimed to broaden the economic cooperation between the two countries.[29] The document underlines, once more, “the enormous difficulties which Mexico encounters in foreign trade as a consequence of its one-sided dependence on the US market,” and notes that this is causing “business and the ruling circles of the country to speak increasingly often in favor of expanding economic ties with other countries, including the countries of the socialist camp.” Thus, the document suggested that Moscow should “exhibit greater initiative in expanding economic ties” through some concrete steps such as support for Mexican state energy enterprises, the construction of a metallurgic plant and the concession of credits paid with future deliveries of raw materials.

Gradually, since expectations were not matched by tangible advances in bilateral relations, optimism was replaced by frustration. Document number 5 reports a conversation held in June 1962 by the Soviet News Agency TASS’s correspondent in Mexico, A. Pavlenko, and Alfredo Perera Mena, head of the editorial department of Comercio Exterior magazine, an organ of the State National Bank for External Trade[30]. During the conversation Perera Mena argued that the “USA accounted for 70 to 80 percent of Mexico’s foreign trade turnover” and pointed out that, “the ruling circles of Mexico strived for weakening that dependence on the USA. For that purpose,” he continued, “Mexico participated in the Latin American free trade zone and broadened trade with Western European (…) companies.” Asked why Soviet-Mexican economic relations were by contrast not advancing, Perera Mena answered without euphemisms that “it was the USA.” According to Perera Mena, “foreign trade companies of the USA sold their goods to Mexico on credit, with payment by installments, which put Mexico in a dependent position; the credit,” Perera stated, “could be stopped at any moment.” Moreover, Mexico’s financial and monetary stability also largely depended on loans from the US Treasury and American banks. Regarding the cessation of the bilateral commercial treaty, Perera Mena emphasized that its conclusion “would trigger a deeply malevolent reaction form the USA, and could harm the already existing Soviet-Mexican trade relations.” Trade, economic and foreign relations were deeply entangled. Perera Mena suggested that the Kennedy administration was even threatening to reduce US purchase prices of Mexican sugar, which were usually higher than global market value, if the López Mateos administration did not break off diplomatic relations with Cuba.

In addition to these foreign relations issues, the document also illustrated that in spite of the optimistic perception of the possibilities of Soviet economic influence, in Mexico it still lacked momentum. Perera Mena noted that “Soviet goods were not known here in Mexico” and that “intensive advertising was required for large numbers buyers to get acquainted with these goods.” Interestingly enough, approximately three years  after the conclusion of the Soviet exhibit in Mexico City, Soviet products were not yet well known in Mexico, evidence of the difficulties Moscow was experiencing with the projection of its economic influence in the country.

Document number 6, elaborated by B.S. Nikiforov, Acting Deputy Director of the Soviet Academy of Science Institute of Latin America, in June 1964, concludes this essay by summing up some of its main points.[31] The document presents comprehensive analyses both of the evolution of Mexican domestic politics during the early 1960s and of Mexican foreign relations, including those with the USSR, during the same period. Nikiforov’s report first offered a detailed and nuanced assessment of the Mexican domestic political scenario, underlining its polarization during the last years. The document acknowledged the existence, beyond the hegemonic Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, or PRI), of several different “democratic” forces such as the National Liberation Movement (Movimiento de Liberación Nacional, or MLN), the Popular Electoral Front (Frente Electoral del Pueblo, or FEP), the Independent Peasant Center and sectors of the PRI itself “for whom the struggle for reforms is not an empty, demagogical phrase.” Suggesting a national liberation movement strategy, which Moscow had supported throughout the Third World since the mid-1950s, the document argued that “there is nothing unrealistic in assuming that a convergence will occur between the democratic elements of the PRI and other progressive forces of Mexico as class social warfare in the country increases.”

Interestingly, the document assessed that these internal pressures, along with the “new alignment of forces in the international arena” and “the strengthening of the world system of socialism,” had had an impact on Mexico’s foreign policy now “characterized by an increasingly clear tendency toward independence.” These tendencies, according to the document, had been strengthened by Mexico’s “searches for new markets” and “its desire for greater independence and freedom from the tutelage of the northern neighbor, both economic and political.”

Within this context, Nikiforov’s report recognized that, in spite of López Mateos’ foreign policy increasing “tendency toward independence,” relations between Mexico, the socialist countries and the USSR had advanced more slowly than what was originally expected. The document underlines some of Mexico’s important achievements in terms of diversifying its relations and maintaining a more independent course, highlighting its defense of Cuba’s Revolution and Mexico’s stronger relations with Asian and African countries and the Non-Aligned Movement as evidence of these accomplishments. Moreover, Nikiforov asserted that in the field of economic diversification the López Mateos administration had achieved more control over foreign investments, namely American ones, and had somewhat reduced its commercial dependency on the superpower.

Within this context, however, the document also emphasized the limits of Soviet-Mexican engagement during the 1960s. Nikiforov’s report argued that “the coincidence of views of the government of Mexico and the governments of the socialist countries on a number of important international issues, and also the mutual desire to develop trade has facilitated the strengthening of Mexico’s ties with the socialist countries.” According to the document, trade, economic and political interactions between Mexico, the socialist block, and especially with Yugoslavia (curiously considered by the author to be a member of the socialist block), Poland and the USSR had increased during the López Mateos presidency. However, the document also pointed out that while the possibility of a comprehensive trade agreement had been discussed “more than once, (….) up to the present time no practical steps have been undertaken in this direction by the Mexican side.” The pessimistic political assessment of Gustavo Díaz Ordaz, PRI’s likely winner of the 1964 presidential race, considered a fervent anticommunist and “known for his conservative, right-wing views,” did not leave many hopes for a further intensification of the relations during his mandate. In fact, Moscow had to wait until 1973, when under the presidency of Luís Echeverría Álvarez, who recovered and continued López Mateos’ independent course, the bilateral commercial treaty between México and the USSR was finally signed.[32]


Under the presidency of López Mateos, for the first time since the end of World War II, Mexico tried to diversify its political and economic relations, attempting to break away from its excessive economic and political dependence on the US. This process of diversification was aimed at creating new ties with other important Third World countries, such as Indonesia, India or Egypt, with which Mexico felt it shared similar political and economic concerns and challenges. The globalization of Mexican foreign policy also included a reassessment of Mexico’s relations with the Soviet Union and the Easter European Socialist countries. The documents presented here show that during López Mateos’ presidency there was a certain degree of consensus among Mexican political and economic actors regarding a possible expansion of Mexico’s economic relations with the Socialist World. Like many other Third World countries, Mexico was interested in a diversification of its commercial relations in order to improve its balance of trade. However, Mexico, which was at the time immersed in a titanic project of state-led economic modernization, was also interested in the lessons of the Soviet “high-modern” socio-economic model, which had assured the USSR’s rapid industrialization. According to the Soviet documents, from a political point of view Mexico’s interest in the Socialist block was also rooted in the country’s attempt to achieve political independence from Washington.

Mexico’s global turn during the late 1950 and early 1960s coalesced with Moscow’s reassessment of its relations with the Third World and Khrushchev’s decision to utilize decolonization and underdevelopment as a way to expand Soviet influence in the peripheries of the World. The documents presented here confirm that since the mid-1950s, but even more so after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, Latin America was also part of this new strategy of engagement with the Third World. Moreover, the documents show that the pillars of Moscow’s approach to Asia, the Middle East or North Africa, namely the support for National Liberation Movements and the expansion of economic relations, were also thought of as possible tools for expanding Soviet influence over Latin America. Moscow proved to be very aware of the advantages that, at least in theory, its economic model had in terms of engagement with developing countries. Particularly, as the Romanova document shows, Moscow was confident that its capacity and readiness to support the expansion of Latin American states as vehicles of economic modernization gave it a great advantage over the US, whose ideological background and economic interests made the support of state-led strategies of modernization more complicated. In addition, Moscow was aware of the structural problems which hampered Latin America’s industrialization projects, especially in terms of balance of trade, and tried to take advantage of its role as a possible alternative to Western markets.

That having been said, Moscow’s optimism and Latin American countries’ margin of maneuvering had their limits. During the 1960s, the limits of Soviet influence and of Mexico’s independent turn were set, on the one hand, by the logistic difficulties which the projection of Moscow’s economic influence on the Western Hemisphere encountered. On the other hand, it was the presence of Washington’s hegemonic constraints during the 1960s that hindered a further expansion of the bilateral relations.

Mexico-Soviet relations cooled again during López Mateos’ successor, Gustavo Díaz Ordaz’ mandate. However, the advances resurged during the early 1970s, laying the foundations for a further intensification of relations during the Echeverría Álvarez administration.

[1] On the history of Mexican-Cuban relations see: Renata Keller, ‘A foreign policy for domestic consumption Mexico’s Lukewarm Defense of Castro, 1959–1969,’ Latin American Research Review, xlvii (2012), pp. 100-19; Ana Covarrubias, ‘Las Relaciones Mexico-Cuba, 1959-2010,’ in Mercedes de Vega (coord.), Historia de las relaciones internacionales de México, 1821-2010. Caribe, México, D.F.: Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores, Direccíon General del Acervo Histórico Diplomático, 2011; Mario Ojeda, Alcances y límites de la política exterior de México, México, D.F.: El Colegio de México, Centro de Estudios Internacionales, 2001; Olga Pellicer, México y la Revolución Cubana, México, D.F.: El Colegio de México, 1972.

[2] Blanca Torres, ‘De la guerra al mundo bipolar,’ in Blanca Torres (coord.), México y el mundo: Historia de sus relaciones exteriores, Tomo VII, México, D.F.: El Colegio de México, 2010, p. 159.

[3] On this subject there is a collection of public documents and speeches jointly published in 1981 by the Mexican Secretary of Foreign Relations and the USSR’s Academy of Science, Archivo Histórico Diplomático Mexicano, Relaciones Mexicano-Soviéticas 1917-1980, México, Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores; URSS Academia de Ciencias, México, 1981; and a volume on the history of the bilateral relations largely focused, however, on the period between the nineteenth century and the Second World War. On the period between the two World Wars, see the influential Daniela Spenser, The Impossible Triangle: Mexico, Soviet Russia, and the United States in the 1920s, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999.

[4] The few, timeworn and in many cases no or scarcely primary sources based contributions to this subject are: Nicola Miller, Soviet relations with Latin America, 1959–1987, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989; Eusebio Mujal-León, ed., The USSR and Latin America: a developing relationship, Boston, MA: Unwin Hyman, 1989; Cole Blasier, The giant’s rival: the USSR and Latin America, Pittsburgh, PA: The University of Pittsburgh Press, 1987. Exceptions to this lack of attention are: Michelle Denise Getchell, “Revisiting the 1954 Coup in Guatemala: The Soviet Union, the United Nations and “Hemispheric Solidarity”, Journal of Cold War Studies, Vol. 17, n.2, Spring 2015, pp. 73-102; Tobias Rupprecht, “Socialist high modernity and global stagnation: a shared history of Brazil and the Soviet Union during the Cold War,” Journal of Global History, (2011) 6, pp. 505–528 and Soviet Internationalism After Stalin. The USSR and Latin America in the Cultural Cold War, Ph.D. Dissertation, European Universitary Institute, Florence, March 2012. On Soviet Union and the Third World see, for example: Alessandro Iandolo, “Imbalance of Power: The Soviet Union and the Congo Crisis, 1960–1961,” Journal of Cold War Studies, Spring 2014, Vol. 16, No. 2, pp. 32-55; Artemy M. Kalinovsky “Not Some British Colony in Africa: Khrushchev and The Politics of Modernization in Central Asia,” Ab Imperio, 2013(2), 191-222; David Engerman, ‘The Second World’s Third World,’ Kritika, 1, 2011, pp. 183–211; Odd Arne Westad, Global Cold War: Cold War Interventions and the Making of Our Times, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005; Vladislav M. Zubok, A Failed Empire: The Soviet Union in the Cold War from Stalin to Gorbachev Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007.

[5] Enrique Cárdenas, ‘La economía en el dilatado siglo XX, 1929-2009,’ in Sandra Kuntz Ficker (coord), Historia económica general de México: De la colonia a nuestros días, México, D.F.: El Colegio de México, 2010, p 515.

[6] Louise E. Walker, Waking from the Dream. Mexico’s Middle Class After 1968, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2013, p. 3.

[7] Cárdenas, ‘La economía,’ p. 517.

[8] Cárdenas, ‘La economía,’ p. 517.

[9] International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, International Development Association, An Appraisal of the Development Program of Mexico, Volume I, 13 July 1964, p. 21

[10] Raymond Vernon, The Dilemma of Mexico’s Development: The Roles of the Private and Public Sectors, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1963, p. 117; Soledad Loaeza, “Modernización Autoritaria a la Sombra de la Superpotencia, 1944-1968,” en AA. VV., Nueva Historia General de México, México D.F., El Colegio de México, 2013, 653-697, pp. 665; 669.

[11] ‘Declaración conjunta, emitida por el Señor Presidente de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos y el Excelentísimo Señor Primer Ministro de la India, el día 10 de octubre de 1962’ in Adolfo López Mateos, Discursos y pláticas del licenciado Adolfo López Mateos en su gira por el Oriente: India, Japón, Filipinas, Indonesia, 1962.

[12] Westad, Global Cold War; Vladislav M. Zubok, A Failed Empire: The Soviet Union in the Cold War from Stalin to Gorbachev Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007, pp. 104-105; Andrea Graziosi, L’URSS dal Trionfo al Declino. Storia dell’Unione Sovietica. 1945-1991, Bologna: Il Mulino, 2008, pp. 183.

[13] Graziosi, L’URSS dal Trionfo al Declino, pp. 182-184.

[14] Héctor Cárdenas, Historia de las relaciones entre México y Rusia, México D.F.: Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores, Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1993, p. 224; RAS, Fond 1798, Opis 1, Delo 88, pp. 124-136, Z.I. Romanova “Latin America’s Economic Cooperation with the Socialist Block’s Countries,” no date, aprox. 1960-61, p. 6.

Stephen Rabe, Eisenhower and Latin America : the foreign policy of anticommunism, Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, 1988, p. 90 quoted in Bevan Sewell, “A Perfect (Free-Market) World? Economics, the Eisenhower Administration, and the Soviet Economic Offensive in Latin America,” Diplomatic History, (2008) 32 (5): 841-868, p. 841.

[16] Tobias Rupprecht, “Socialist high modernity and global stagnation: a shared history of Brazil and the Soviet Union during the Cold War,” Journal of Global History, Volume 6 / Issue 03 / November 2011, pp 505 – 528.

[17] Héctor Cárdenas, Historia de las relaciones entre México y Rusia, p. 224.

[18] Foreign Ministry Archive, Fond 0110, Inventory no., File: no, Informational materials, V. Bazykin, “Concerning Soviet-Mexican Relations,” 3 August 1960, Item 1, No. 516/OCA, p. 23.

[19] Hugo Fazio Vengoa, “América Latina Vista por los Académicos Soviéticos: Preámbulo de Las Relaciones Ruso –Latinoamericanas,” Historia Crítica, n. 15, 1997, pp. 31-49, p. 33.

[20] Nicola Miller, Soviet relations with Latin America, 1959–1987, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989, p. 11.

[21] RGAE, D.D. Degtyar (1904-1982), Personal Collection, Fond 645, Opis 1, Delo 31, “Reports on trip to Latin America,” Report on Soviet Delegation goodwill trip to Latin American counties,” no date, aprox. 1961-62, pp. 143-145.

[22] RAS, Fond 1798, Opis 1, Delo 88,pp. 124-136, Z.I. Romanova “Latin America’s Economic Cooperation with the Socialist Block’s Countries,” no date, aprox. 1960-61. 

[23] Rupprecht, “Socialist high modernity and global stagnation,” pp. 505–528.

[24] RAS, Fond 1858, Opis 1, Delo 22, pp. 107-132, “ V.V. Volski Intervention at the National Liberation Movement Conference and the Revolutionary Movement in Latin American Countries,” 24 Dicember 1962.

[25] RGAE, Fond 635, Opis. 1, Delo. 392, pp. 1-12, “A. Shelnov, Report on the work of the Soviet exhibition in MexicoYear 1959,” December 1959, p. 1.


[27] Foreign Ministry Archive, Fond 0110, Inventory no., File: no, Informational materials, V. Bazykin, “Concerning Soviet-Mexican Relations,” 03.08.1960, Item 1, No. 516/OCA, p. 23.


[29] RGAE, Fond 645, Opis 1, Delo 31, pp. 454-483. “Mexico, Economic Situation and perspectives of broaden economic relation with the USSR,” no date, aprox. 60-61.

[30] RGAE, Fond 365, Opis 2, Delo 340, pp. 88-90, “A. Pavlenko, Memorandum of Conversation with Alfredo Perera Mena, head of editorial department of “Comercio Exterior” magazine, 1 June 1962.

[31] RAS, Fond 1858, Opis 1, Delo 109, pp. 1-32, B.S. Nikiforov to V. A. Kuzmishchev, 23 June 1964.

[32] Archivo Histórico Diplomático Mexicano, Relaciones Mexicano-Soviéticas 1917-1980, México, Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores; URSS Academia de Ciencias, México, 1981, p. 118.


About the Author

Vanni Pettinà

Vanni Pettinà

Associate Professor of International and Latin American Contemporary History at the Center for Historical Studies, El Colegio de México
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