The president of Cuba will be the guest of honor and give a speech at Thursday’s Independence Day celebrations, becoming the first foreign leader to address the event.
President López Obrador confirmed Tuesday that Miguel Díaz-Canel would speak at a ceremony prior to a military parade in downtown Mexico City to celebrate the 211th anniversary of the beginning of the fight for independence in Mexico.
Speaking at his regular news conference, López Obrador defended the Cuban leader’s participation in the Fiestas Patrias, emphasizing that Mexico has friendly relations with all the world’s nations.
However, the president has a special affection for Cuba, declaring in July that the Caribbean island nation is an “example of resistance” and the whole country should be declared a World Heritage site.
He also called for an end to the United States trade embargo as a way to end large protests in Cuba earlier this year, and sent three ships carrying diesel, medical supplies and food to the country in what experts described as Mexico’s biggest aid run to the country in three decades.
At his press conference on Tuesday, López Obrador also responded to criticism from former president Felipe Calderón, who said that it was unacceptable for a dictator to take a central role in Mexico’s Independence Day celebrations.
“ … It’s good that he doesn’t like it!” the president said before accusing his longtime foe of hypocrisy because he met with former Cuban president Raúl Castro while he was in office.
López Obrador also said Tuesday that United States President Joe Biden wouldn’t come to Mexico this month to join celebrations marking the 200th anniversary of the end of the 11-year War of Independence against the Spanish.
“President Biden was invited for the 27th [of September]. He can’t be here, but the head of the United States Department of State will be here,” he said, referring to Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
López Obrador said there is an open invitation for Biden to come to Mexico because a face-to-face meeting with his counterpart – rather than via video link – is important.
He previously invited Biden to visit rural roads built by residents of Oaxaca, but the U.S. president didn’t take him up on the offer.
Returning to the topic of this week’s Independence celebrations, the president invited citizens to watch Wednesday night’s “El Grito” (Cry of Independence) ceremony on television because the event, which usually attracts large crowds to Mexico City’s central square, won’t be open to the public.
“We have to protect ourselves from COVID-19 infections,” López Obrador said before pledging that the event will be a “civil spectacle of the first order” and “a great surprise.”
With reports from El Universal