Mexico provides Cuba with a political lifeline

Photo by Jorge Aguilar

Mexico’s President, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has reiterated his belief that the US government should lift its embargo on Cuba, and not take advantage of what he described as the misfortunes of other people. 

Speaking in the presence of Miguel Díaz-Canel, Cuba’s President, and his guest of honour at the official event to mark Mexico’s 211th anniversary of independence, Mexico’s President called on the US for “better understanding, mutual respect, and freedom without conditions or arrogance” for Cuba. 

Observing that “we may or may not agree with the Cuban Revolution and its government but having resisted 62 years without submission is an indisputable historical feat,” Mexico’s President called on the US government to end its embargo. 

“The government that I represent respectfully calls on the United States government to lift the blockade against Cuba, because no state has the right to subdue another people, another country. It is necessary to remember what George Washington said: ‘Nations should not take advantage of the misfortune of other peoples,’” President López Obrador observed. 

Continuing, he said, “To put it frankly, it seems wrong for the United States government to use the blockade to impede the well-being of the Cuban people, so that they, forced by necessity, have to confront their own government. If this perverse strategy were to succeed — something that does not seem likely, due to the dignity to which we have referred — it would become a pyrrhic, vile triumph.” “Hopefully”, he said, “President Biden, who has a lot of political sensitivity, acts with that greatness and puts an end, forever, to the policy of grievances towards Cuba.” 

Lopez Obrador added that the Cuban-American community must also help by putting aside electoral or partisan interests. “You have to leave resentments behind, understand the new circumstances and seek reconciliation. It is time for brotherhood and not for confrontation,” he said. 

Responding, President Díaz-Canel said that the decision by Mexico to receive him as a guest of honour was of “immeasurably great value” at a time when Cuba was under intense pressure from the US and faced “the ravages of a multidimensional war, with a criminal blockade, opportunistically intensified in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic”.

Speaking about what he described as “an aggressive campaign of hatred, misinformation, manipulation, and lies” mounted on digital platforms, which “ignores all ethical limits,” Díaz-Canel said that Mexico’s solidarity with Cuba had awakened “a greater admiration and the deepest gratitude.” He also noted Cuba’s deep appreciation of the medical supplies and food sent “to alleviate the combined effects of economic harassment and the pandemic.” 

Cuba’s President described the historic ties between Mexico and Cuba as “inextricable,” noting that they had never been broken. “Our two countries have honoured their sovereign policies, regardless of proximity or distance between governments,” Cuba’s President said. 

During the visit, the two presidents and senior ministers met to discuss deepening relations. According to Cuba’s state media, the focus was on maintaining the high-level political dialogue, expanding economic-commercial relations and investment, broadening cooperation in health and biotechnology, and strengthening tourism, sports, education, cultural, and academic links. 

Díaz-Canel’s visit preceded the VI Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), which began on 18 September (See Americas below). Both Mexico, which holds the pro tempore Presidency of CELAC, and Cuba see the body as an alternative hemispheric vehicle to the US dominated Organisation of American States. 

Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, represented President Biden at the independence celebrations. Several leading Mexican opposition figures criticised the decision to invite Cuba’s President. 

In August, Mexico’s Foreign Minister, Marcelo Ebrard, told the Mexican publication, La Jornada, that Washington “is reaching the limit of logic” and ethics on sanctions by “telling a country that [it] does not have the right to oxygen” during a humanitarian crisis. At the time, he noted that Mexico would “adjust its route” based on whatever response was received to a letter sent by Mexico’s President to President Biden asking him to suspend the embargo (Details Cuba Briefing 30 August 2021). 

The Mexican President’s remarks and his decision to invite Cuba’s President as a guest of honour provides Cuba with a hemispheric political and economic lifeline at a time when it is facing intensified US sanctions, stubbornly high infection rates of COVID-19 and its variants, and a domestic economic crisis affecting all Cubans. It suggests that Mexico is now intent on demonstrating alternative leadership on Cuba in the Americas, and that the US may now find only limited support for its Cuba policy there, despite widespread international concern about the initially aggressive way the Cuban government responded to July’s Street protests. 

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