By SILVIO CANTO, JR.
During my time in Mexico years ago, I had lunch once with a Mexican businessman and asked him about his country’s relationship with Fidel Castro’s Cuba.
I asked him what’s the big deal? What does Mexico get out of it?
He answered by saying that Mexican-Cuban relations are about keeping the left wing protestors in the universities happy and showing some independence from the United States. He concluded by telling me not to take it too seriously.
But over the weekend, Cuba’s never-elected “president,” Miguel Díaz-Canel, was a special guest at Mexico’s Independence Day parade, and an honored attendee of the sixth summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).
During his intervention in the Independence Day ceremony, the Cuban leader even spoke about the long, historical relationship between the two countries, going back to colonial days.
Of course, he also called for the end of the U.S. embargo, a position echoed by AMLO both during the national day festivities on Thursday, Sept. 16, and the CELAC summit on Saturday, Sept. 18.
As always, no one in AMLO’s team of henchmen bothered to remind the Cuban leader that the embargo does not stop Mexico or any other country from doing business with the island. Who cares about the truth anyway?
As expected, Díaz-Canel’s visit to Mexico spurred a lot of conversation in Miami, but also gained the wrath of Republican senators in Washington, especially Marco Rubio, who essentially called AMLO a liar for repeating Díaz-Canal’s false claims about the embargo.
And I, as a Cuban American whose family escaped the Castro regime, was happy to see others join the parade of critics, such as Mexico’s former president, Felipe Calderón.
“López Obrador’s invitation to the Cuban leader generated criticism among the Mexican opposition and Cubans, both on and off the island, who have denounced Díaz-Canel’s role in the repression of the antigovernment protests that shook the island in July,” Calderón posted on Twitter
“It is unacceptable that a dictator who locks up dozens of Cuban citizens has the leading role in (Mexico’s national day) celebrations.”
Thank you, President Calderón.
And thanks to the many others who posted similar comments, such as President Luis Lacalle Pou of Uruguay and who also called Díaz-Canal out for Cuba’s lack of democracy during the CELAC summit.
Why did López Obrador make Díaz-Canel such a prominent guest of honor during what was supposed to be a celebration of Mexican independence?
Obviously, it’s not for economic reasons.
According to Mexican government figures, combined two-way trade between the countries amounts to a piddly $442 million, and is mostly comprised of rum and cigars from the Cuban side and milk powder and cooking oil on the Mexican side.
My guess is that López Obrador was trying to remind the Mexican left that he is one of them, even though his administration has managed to increase the national poverty level by 7.3 percent in just three years, while creating negative economic growth every year he has been in power.
Or maybe it was to distract from his dreadful mismanagement of the covid-19 pandemic, that has resulted in the deaths of 271,000 Mexicans, according to official accounts (although unofficial accounts put the number at at least twice that).
AMLO may also be trying to bring the United States and Cuba closer, as we saw in the early 1980s when then-President Ronald Reagan agreed to engage in talks with Cuba in Mexico City. Of course, eventually, those talks ended because Castro had troops in Angola.
So what did López Obrador get out of inviting such a controversial guest to the Sept. 16 celebration?
Not much, except that he once again showed that he has an inherent fondness for the left, regardless of such petty issues as democracy and respect of human rights.
And the leftist university professors south of the border love that.
Don’t expect any marches in Mexican universities calling on Díaz-Canel to stop beating protesters.
SILVIO CANTO, JR. is a Cuban-born U.S. citizen who teaches English at a north Texas college. He is the author of the book “Cubanos in Wisconsin” and has a daily online radio program and blog dealing with U.S. and Latin American politics, as well as sports and historic events, and is a regular contributor to American Thinker.