MEXICO CITY – The big highlight of Mexico‘s Independence Day Thursday was a visit from Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador welcomed the Cuban leader to the review platform for Mexico’s annual military parade on 16 September.
López Obrador called on the United States to stop the economic blockade of Cuba. The Mexican leader also called on Cuban-Americans to “put aside party or election interests” and seek reconciliation.
“Hopefully, President (Joe) Biden has enough political sensitivity to act with greatness and put an end to the political attacks on Cuba,” said López Obrador. “He should also help Cuban-American society put aside political or electoral interests, they have to leave behind anger and understand the new circumstances and seek reconciliation.”
The pandemic, the effects of US sanctions and Cuba’s economic abuse have stifled Cuba’s economy. Thousands of Cubans took part in the protests on July 11 and 12, outraged at the lack of food and medicine and of power outages, as well as some demanding more political freedom.
López Obrador said “It looks bad that the US government is using the blockade to prevent the well-being of the Cuban people, with the goal of forcing people by having to confront their own government.”
“If this perverse strategy is successful,” said López Obrador, “it would be a pyrrhic victory, wicked and perverse.”
Some thought it inappropriate to show the Cuban leader on Independence Day.
“I think they should have invited some outstanding Mexican, some scientist, but not someone who comes from a regime because I do not support any regime,” said salesman Victor Carabez, 60. “For me, democracy lives long.”
2021 is 200 years since Mexico’s formal declaration of independence in 1821 from Spain.
Mexico will host a summit with the leaders on Friday in the community of Latin American and Caribbean states, known by their initials in Spanish as CELAC. Some analysts say that Mexico may try to seize the opportunity to weaken or leave the Organization of American States, or OAS.
Mexican officials have criticized the OAS as too US-oriented and too interventionist and have said a new body is needed to represent the region’s countries. López Obrador has previously said that OAS should be replaced by “a truly autonomous body, one that is not anyone’s lackey.”
Cuba is part of CELAC, but does not belong to OAS.
After essentially agreeing with the United States to prevent migrants from reaching the U.S. border and getting them back, López Obrador needs some way to signal that Mexico has not abandoned its traditionally independent foreign policy.
Mexico has already sent aid shipments to Cuba, and Díaz-Canel thanked Mexico for its support.
However, López Obrador has also given priority to maintaining good relations with the United States. Mexico can bet that a US administration that is so concerned about the migration of migrants at the border may be willing to overlook differences in foreign policy issues.
On Thursday, Biden issued a statement congratulating Mexico on its anniversary, noting “Mexico is one of our most valued partners. Together, we can promote our many mutual interests and work together to address common challenges.”