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Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador’s invitation to Cuban dictator Miguel Díaz-Canel to attend Thursday’s ceremonies for the 200 anniversary of Mexico’s independence — and to make a speech at the event — is a slap in the face of democracy, human rights and Mexico’s dignity.
Receiving a red-carpet welcome from Mexico’s president will be a political godsend for the Cuban dictator. Díaz-Canel is a weak, colorless autocrat, who badly needed a propaganda victory at home following the historic July 11 anti-government protests on the island.
Thousands took to the streets to demand fundamental freedoms and food, in the biggest protests in Cuba in recent memory. Nearly 500 Cubans who participated in the July protests are still in jail or under house arrest, and at least 67 of them have been convicted on bogus charges without due process, according to the Human Rights Watch advocacy group.
And yet, while Cuba’s pro-democracy activists, artists and intellectuals are urging other countries to condemn Cuba for its crackdown on peaceful protesters. López Obrador is doing exactly the opposite — he’s effectively rewarding Cuba’s repression.
It will be the third time that Díaz-Canel. visits Mexico since López Obrador took office in December 2018. The Mexican leader, a leftist-nationalist populist, has also invited more than 800 Cuban doctors to Mexico, who are getting paid as little as 20% of their salaries, with the rest going to the Cuban regime and intermediaries.
In July, López Obrador publicly praised Cuba’s defense of its “dignity” and proposed that the island be declared a “World Heritage Site” for supposedly being an “example of resistance” against U.S. aggressions.
Neither then nor now has López Obrador even mentioned the fact that Cuba has not allowed a single free election over the past 62 years, or that Cuba’s dictatorship prohibits political parties and independent media.
López Obrador also seems to shrug off the fact that Cuba’s dictatorship is responsible for at least 3,051 documented cases of executions by firing squad and another 1,258 extra-judicial executions since 1959, according to the Cubaarchive.org database.
When I read of López Obrador’s invitation to the Cuban dictator for the independence day ceremonies, my first reaction was, “So what’s next for López Obrador? Will he now make friends with North Korea’s tyrant Kim Jong Un?
Well, I asked around, and it turns out that, yes, Mexico’s foreign ministry has recently announced that it will establish diplomatic relations with North Korea. And López Obrador already invited Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro to his December 2018 inauguration ceremony, breaking a hemisphere-wide diplomatic effort to isolate Maduro after the Venezuelan ruler’s fraudulent 2018 re-election.
When López Obrador is asked about his love affair with tyrants, he usually responds that Mexico is a sovereign country that has relations with all nations, and that Mexico’s Constitution proclaims the principle of “non-intervention” in other countries’ internal affairs.
But that’s a misleading interpretation of what the Mexican Constitution says.
While Article 89 of Mexico’s constitution calls on the president to follow a foreign policy of “non-intervention” in other countries’ affairs, it also demands in the very same paragraph that the president conduct a foreign policy guided by “the respect, protection and promotion of human rights.”
What’s more, López Obrador uses his “non-intervention” policy selectively to criticize abuses by right-of-center governments, but turns a blind eye on power grabs by left-of center ones.
López Obrador publicly denounced what he claimed was a coup against Bolivia’s former leftist President Evo Morales in 2019, despite the fact that Morales had rigged his re-election earlier that year, and had run for an unconstitutional fourth consecutive term in office.
López Obrador — whose leftist nationalism remains stuck in the 1970s, when he was a student leader who took 14 years to get his law degree — has rarely paid attention to foreign policy. But all of a sudden, he is quietly becoming a champion of the collective defense for autocracies in the region.
This week, he is hosting a meeting of the CELAC, a left-of-center regional group that Mexico says will propose ways to reform or kill the Washington, D.C.-based, 34-country Organization of American States.
Will Washington start raising its voice against Mexico’s support for leftist dictatorships? Former President Trump never did that, and instead struck a mutual praise alliance with his fellow autocrat-wannabe López Obrador. President Biden should do it, if he really wants to support democracy in the region.
Don’t miss the “Oppenheimer Presenta” TV show on Sundays at 8 p.m. E.T. on CNN en Español. Twitter: @oppenheimera