Leaders of Mexico, Argentina are shameless hypocrites who back Cuba’s repressive regime (Opinion)

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by Andrés Oppenheimer

If there were medals for political hypocrisy — or for utter disdain for human rights — they would go to the presidents of Mexico and Argentina for their shameful response to the peaceful July 11 protests in Cuba. Instead of calling for freedom of expression to be protected, they are defending one of the world’s most repressive dictatorships.

Leftist populist leaders Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, of Mexico, and Argentina’s Alberto Fernandez were among the few leaders in the Americas — including the leftist dictators of Venezuela and Nicaragua and the president of Bolivia — who effectively sided with Cuba’s dictatorship.

The presidents of the United States, Canada, Brazil, Peru, Chile, Uruguay and Peru, among others, condemned Cuba’s crackdown on unarmed protesters. Even Spain’s Socialist government demanded that Cuba respect the fundamental right of its people to participate in “free and peaceful” demonstrations.

But Lopez Obrador and Fernandez, who often coordinate their foreign policies, echoed the Cuban regime’s absurd claim that Cuba’s largest social protests in recent decades were Washington’s fault.

At least one protester died, and more than 140 people were arrested or are “disappeared,” human-rights groups said earlier this week. The Cuban regime has since blocked internet communications on the island.

During Sunday’s historic demonstrations in Cuba, protesters marched through the streets of several cities chanting “Patria y Vida,” — “Fatherland and life!” — in response to late dictator Fidel Castro’s slogan “Fatherland or death!.” They were protesting the regime’s poor handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the island’s crumbling hospital system, worsening food shortages, electricity cuts and the lack of basic freedoms.

But Lopez Obrador refused to condemn Cuba’s repression, saying that, “If one wants to help Cuba, the first thing that should be done is to suspend the blockade of Cuba.” Further echoing the Cuban dictatorship’s narrative of victimization, he said that Cubans should be allowed to choose their own destiny free of U.S. pressures.

Argentina’s Fernandez said pretty much the same. “I don’t know what’s going on, but we should end with the blockades,” he said, as if he had not read the front-page headlines about Cuba in his own country’s newspapers.

But their arguments, parroted by the Jurassic left for decades, sound more absurd than ever.

First, there technically is no “blockade” on Cuba. There is a 1962 embargo on U.S. trade with the island that was imposed in response to Cuba’s expropriation of American companies.

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But, even if some of us consider it counter-productive, it’s not a U.S. naval blockade of the island. Cuba currently trades with 70 countries, according to its government’s figures. And the embargo has so many exceptions that the United States is one of Cuba’s 15 largest trading partners.

According to the U.S. State Department, the United States is Cuba’s biggest provider of food and agricultural products. In 2018, the United States exported food and medicines worth $276 million to Cuba, and it sends an estimated $3.5 billion a year in family remittances to the island, it says.

Second, regarding the claim that the Cuban people who should determine their future — of course, they should. But it’s the dictatorship — not Washington — that does not allow them to do so, denying them the basic rights to freedom of expression and free elections.

Third, it’s worth noting that Lopez Obrador and Fernandez have condemned the excessive use of force by police in recent anti-government protests in Colombia, a country that has free elections and freedom of the press, but they are silent when Cuba’s dictatorship cracks down on peaceful demonstrators.

“It seems like for Lopez Obrador and Fernandez, there should be human rights for the victims of police repression in Colombia or Chile, but not for the victims of police repression in Cuba or Nicaragua,” says Santiago Canton, a rule-of-law expert with Inter-American Dialogue think tank in Washington, D.C. “Clearly, for them, human rights are only for those who think like them.”

I’m convinced that international human-rights groups should start giving out awards for the world’s biggest political hypocrites. The presidents of Mexico and Argentina should be among the top contenders.

By Andres Oppenheimer

Source: The Oppenheimer Report

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