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TWO MONTHS AGO on July 12 Mexican President Amlo (Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador) surprised many with his immediate and categorical declaration of solidarity with Cuba in response to the US-sponsored disturbances on the island.
He followed up his call for an end to the blockade by declaring that, whatever one’s opinion of the Cuban government, the island deserved a prize for dignity for its 61 years of resistance and should be declared a World Heritage site.
Actions followed words as two Mexican naval vessels carried food, medical supplies and diesel fuel to Havana (more have followed since).
Now, at the official celebrations of Mexican Independence Day (September 16), Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel was the guest of honour. Previous reports (which provoked predictable protests from right-wing media and politicians) only indicated that Diaz-Canel was invited along with other Latin American and Caribbean leaders who would be attending the Celac (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) meeting on September 18, but in the early hours of September 16 the Cuban president’s exceptional honour became apparent.
Tradition dictated a ceremony led by the Mexican president on the night of September 15-16, followed by a military parade at 10am.
But all became clear shortly before 10am when Amlo, his military commanders and key members of his cabinet were accompanied on the podium by Diaz-Canel and other Cuban dignitaries.
What followed was truly historic: after the Mexican defence secretary, Diaz-Canel made a remarkable speech, followed by Amlo with an equally powerful contribution. No more speeches, but a great military parade and fly-past by Mexican forces and guest military contingents from a remarkable variety of countries.
Diaz-Canel stressed the close historic ties between the two countries, with details of Cubans who had joined in Mexican popular and revolutionary struggles since the 19th century and vice versa.
He pointed out the priority of social justice (and not just formal independence) in Mexico’s revolutionary struggles beginning with the “Grito,” the “Cry” of revolt on September 16 1810 by rebel priest Father Miguel Hidalgo. This had a real impact in Cuba and Mexico’s ongoing struggles were an inspiration for the island’s own revolts against Spain. In 1868 Mexico under the great indigenous reformer Benito Juarez was the first country to recognise the Cuban insurgent leader Carlos Manuel de Cespedes.
Nearly a century later Mexico was the only Latin American nation which refused to break relations with Cuba in 1961 when the OAS (Organisation of American States), at Washington’s behest, expelled the island.
Mexico’s great ex-president Lazaro Cardenas (who had nationalised the oil in 1938) had been among the first to show solidarity with the revolution by visiting the island early in 1959. Subsequent Mexican governments of all tendencies had maintained good relations with Cuba: “Mexico is a country which all Cubans should love like their own.”
Amlo responded by insisting that with Hidalgo the independence struggle, more than anywhere else in the region, was based on a desire for social justice: it was Hidalgo who first proclaimed (in principle) the abolition of slavery. A century later the great Mexican revolution of 1910 led to real efforts to implement social justice in practice.
He repeated his declaration that Cuba should be awarded a prize for dignity and made a World Heritage site: “My government respectfully calls on the US government to end the blockade.” If the perverse blockade strategy were to be successful in overthrowing the Cuban government — which was extremely unlikely — it would be a Pyrrhic victory for the US , a vile deed and an indelible stain on Washington’s reputation.
Former US president Jimmy Carter had the courage to return the Canal to Panama and it was to be hoped that President Biden would now have the valour to end the blockade of Cuba. Amlo concluded with “Vivas” to Mexico, Cuba and universal fraternity.
Today, September 18, Mexico hosts a meeting of Celac, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (created a decade ago as a Venezuelan initiative to include all countries of the region except the US and Canada). A total of 31 countries will be represented, with 27 presidents and prime ministers, 11 foreign ministers and other dignitaries.
But in recent weeks Amlo and his Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard have been repeating their proposal to replace, or reconstruct, the OAS with a hemispheric organisation based on equality and mutual respect: a recognition that Latin America and the Caribbean cannot ignore their superpower neighbour, but must demand that it work with them on an equal basis.
David Raby is a retired academic and independent researcher on Latin America. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @DLRaby.
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