To what extent the trip to Havana of the Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, will translate into concrete events that advance bilateral relations, history will tell. At the moment, López Obrador is already in Cuba and this Sunday he will be decorated with the José Martí Order, the highest distinction granted by the island’s authorities to a foreign personality, and with that, politically, almost everything is said. Beyond the agreements signed by both countries in different areas, for the Government of Miguel Díaz-Canel, López Obrador’s visit is important, since in Cuban lands he is expected to make a forceful denunciation of the North American embargo, which has lasted six decades and the island considers the main cause of its economic ills, and also because it will once again reject the exclusion of Cuba (and also of Nicaragua and Venezuela) from the next Summit of the Americas, convened by Joe Biden next June in the city of The Angels.
At the moment this issue weighs heavily in Havana, even more so after the pronouncements of several countries of the Caribbean Community (Caricom), which have stood up and warned Washington that if it persists in the exclusions, they will not attend. There are 14 countries, and the fact that López Obrador is firmly on the side of the island in this matter is relevant, since Mexico is not just any Latin American country.
The Mexican president’s trip is important for Cuba and for López Obrador, who has made a banner of his policy of active support for Havana against the United States. Unlike other Mexican presidents — all have visited Cuba since 1959, but most they have done it at the end of his mandate, in a protocol way—, López Obrador arrives in the middle of the legislature, staging that he wants to give the maximum level to the relations between the two countries in accordance with the tradition that the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) maintained for decades, following the philosophy that “by defending Cuba, Mexico and its principles are also defended.”
To what extent the results of the trip exceed its symbolism, which is a lot, will be seen. During the 24 hours that he will be in Havana, López Obrador will hold official talks with the Cuban president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, and will attend with him the signing of several bilateral agreements, among which three stand out, or at least it is planned: one to make possible the acquisition of medicines and vaccines against covid-19 developed by Cuban laboratories; another instrument for Mexican financial institutions to assist their investors and strengthen bilateral trade —currently, exchanges are around 400 million dollars a year, a figure that places Mexico among the top 10 partners of Havana—; and probably also an agreement that allows expanding the capacities of the Consulate in Havana, at times of great migratory pressure. In the last two months, 67,000 illegal Cuban migrants have entered the US through the Mexican border, an absolute record. Mexico is interested in promoting legal and safe emigration, not that these emigrants cross borders and fall into the hands of mafias, but for this it is essential that the consulate be able to recover the rhythm prior to the pandemic —in 2018, 24,000 visas were granted to citizens Cubans, today a chimera — Although the migratory issue was the axis of López Obrador’s Central American tour, in Havana the tone is different and surely the matter will come out of the corner, or it will not come out, in the official declarations.
Some analysts also point out that it is no coincidence that López Obrador travels to Havana with a small entourage that includes Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, and the Secretaries of Defense, Luis Cresencio Sandoval, and of the Navy, José Rafael Ojeda. As he told the magazine Process Arturo López-Levy, professor of international relations at Holy Names University in California, “López Obrador wants his soldiers to exchange ideas and doctrinal concepts with left-wing soldiers and to see how the Cuban military has inserted itself into national security logics that they go beyond defense and include topics such as the fight against poverty, the management of strategic companies and economic development”. This is, a visit with a great symbolic load for both countries.
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