President López Obrador received Cuba’s highest state honor during a visit to the island nation on Sunday.
Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, who was the guest of honor at Mexico’s Independence Day celebrations last September, presented the Order of José Martí to his counterpart at an event in Havana.
Named after the 19th-century independence hero and poet, the honor was bestowed upon López Obrador for advocating the economic integration of American states, strengthening regional unity and defending just causes, peace and cooperation between nations.
Among the other heads of state who have received Cuba’s highest honor are Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and his deceased predecessor Hugo Chávez, Russian President Vladimir Putin, former Iraq president Saddam Hussein, former Chilean president Salvador Allende and former South African president Nelson Mandela, who received the order before he assumed the presidency.
In Havana, after a whirlwind tour of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Belize, López Obrador also attended a ceremony at the Plaza de la Revolución (Revolution Square), where former Cuban president Fidel Castro delivered countless lengthy speeches during his almost 50-year rule.
At the square – backed by buildings adorned by large images of Cuba’s revolutionary heroes Ernesto “Che” Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos – the Mexican president laid a wreath to honor Martí, who was killed in an 1895 battle with Spanish troops.
After being conferred with the honor at the nearby Palace of the Revolution, López Obrador – well-known for his indefatigable oratory – delivered a nearly hour-long speech, during which he reiterated his rejection of the United States’ trade embargo on Cuba and pledged to never bet on the failure of the Cuban revolution, which celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2019.
Only 100 kilometers from the superpower that is the United States, there is an independent island inhabited by “modest and humble yet happy, creative and … very dignified people,” he said.
“… Personally, I have never bet on … nor will I ever bet on the failure of the Cuban revolution, its legacy of justice and its lessons of independence and dignity,” López Obrador said.
“I will never participate with coup plotters who conspire against the ideals of equality and universal fraternity,” the president told those present, including Díaz-Canel, who stood at his side while he delivered his speech.
However, AMLO did advocate for renewal of the political system in Cuba, which has been a one-party communist state for over six decades.
He said he had hoped “that the revolution is capable of renewing itself in order to follow the example of the martyrs who fought for freedom, equality, justice and sovereignty.”
López Obrador, who claims his administration is carrying out a “fourth transformation” of Mexico, added that he had faith that the Cuban government was ruling the country with that objective in mind.
“That the new revolution is being carried out within the revolution is Cuba’s second great … lesson to the world. The [Cuban] people will once again demonstrate that reason is more powerful than force,” he said.
López Obrador reiterated his advocacy for the establishment of an economic bloc in the region in which each country’s sovereignty and political system is respected.
He said he would emphasize to United States President Joe Biden that no country should be excluded from the Summit of the Americas, which will be held in Los Angeles next month.
The U.S. government has indicated that Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua are unlikely to be invited, but López Obrador proclaimed that “nobody should exclude anyone.”
In much briefer remarkers after the Mexican president’s address, Díaz-Canel thanked his counterpart for his support and “firm position” against the United States’ blockade.
“We’ve addressed important issues on our bilateral agenda but also dealt with regional issues,” he said, referring to meetings between Cuban and Mexican officials during López Obrador’s 27-hour visit.
“… As President López Obrador has said, the relations in the [western] hemisphere must change profoundly. The Cuban revolution … will continue its triumphant march … and Mexico will always be able to count on Cuba,” added Díaz-Canel, who succeeded Raúl Castro as president in 2018.
Back in Mexico City on Monday, AMLO revealed that more than 500 Cuban doctors would come to work in Mexico and that the government would purchase COVID-19 vaccines from Cuba.
“We are … going to hire doctors from Cuba who are going to come to work in our country; we made this decision because we do not have the doctors we need,” he told reporters at his regular news conference.
COVID-19 vaccines from Cuba will be used to inoculate children as young as two, López Obrador said, adding that the communist island nation, which has developed its own anti-COVID shots, has achieved “great results” from its vaccination program.