by Ben Norton, published on Geopolitical Economy, February 13, 2023
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced Mexico will lead an international movement to end the US government’s “inhumane” blockade against Cuba. Praising Fidel Castro as a “visionary”, AMLO denounced neoliberalism and pledged support for universal public healthcare and education.
Mexico’s progressive President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced that his country will lead an international movement to end the US government’s illegal blockade against Cuba.
The Mexican president, known popularly by his initials AMLO, condemned the six-decade US blockade of Cuba as “inhumane”. He said the global campaign to overturn it must be more “active”, complaining that, while the vast majority of countries on Earth vote against the US embargo every year at the United Nations General Assembly, nothing ever changes.
AMLO also praised the Cuban Revolution for creating “one of the best health systems in the world”. He thanked Cuba for sending doctors to provide medical attention to people in underserved rural areas in Mexico and other countries around the world.
Criticizing the “neoliberal oligarchy” who ruled before him and “the corrupt neoliberal privatizers” who sold off many of the Mexican state’s assets, López Obrador explained that his government’s goal “is to establish a system of public healthcare, to guarantee the people’s right to healthcare”.
“The right to healthcare is a fundamental human rights, and it cannot be treated like a market”, AMLO declared.
The Mexican leader made these comments in a February 11 press conference in the southern port city of Campeche, alongside Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, who addressed the two countries’ collaboration in public health.
The event featured dozens of Cuban doctors who were sent to Mexico as part of a solidarity mission.
Mexico’s President AMLO honored Fidel Castro as “a visionary, a giant to whom we pay tribute”
He added: “Conservatives in Mexico and around the world can say whatever they want, but they’ll never, ever be able to counteract” Cuba’s solidarity
More here: https://t.co/oInjQf5cSG pic.twitter.com/DDaDRQklBs
— Ben Norton (@BenjaminNorton) February 16, 2023
López Obrador has consistently spoken out against the US sanctions and embargo against Cuba, which violate international law.
In June 2022, the Mexican president denounced the US blockade as a “type of genocide” and “tremendous violation of human rights”.
At the February 2023 event, AMLO honored Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro as “a visionary, a giant to whom we pay tribute”, adding, “Conservatives in Mexico and around the world can say whatever they want, but they will never, ever be able to counteract the teaching, the example of solidarity, of brotherhood that the revolutionary movement and its leaders have left Cuba”.
In the fiery speech, AMLO stated:
Such vision Commander Fidel Castro had! While the neoliberals [in Mexico] were preventing the training of doctors, in Cuba they were driving the training of doctors, and consolidating one of the best health systems in the world.
That is not done by a mere man of the state; that is done by a man of the nation, a visionary, a giant to whom we pay tribute for this great work that you all have continued (referring to the Cuban doctors in the audience).
Conservatives in Mexico and around the world can say whatever they want, but they will never, ever be able to counteract the teaching, the example of solidarity, of brotherhood that the revolutionary movement and its leaders have left Cuba.
For this, our respect, our gratitude, our support.
We are going to continue demanding that the blockade against Cuba be lifted, that it be eliminated. It is inhumane.
And not only when it comes to voting in the UN, where it is always only one or two countries who vote in support of it, while the vast majority of the countries in the world abstain or vote for the blockade to be eliminated. But when the [General] Assembly is over, it is back to the same old.
I offer to President Miguel Díaz-Canel that Mexico is going to lead a more active movement, so that all countries unite and defend the independence and sovereignty of Cuba, and never, ever treat it as a ‘terrorist’ country, or put its profoundly humane people and government on a blacklist of supposed ‘terrorists’.
Long live the dignified people of Cuba!
En Martí y en Fidel pienso al ver a nuestros médicos trabajando, con consagración y alegría, en #México, una tierra que jamás ha sido extranjera, siempre hermana, para todos los cubanos.
En Campeche nos reunimos con una representación de ellos. #CubaPorLaVida pic.twitter.com/IofL0ldTwm
— Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez (@DiazCanelB) February 11, 2023
In his remarks at the public health press conference, Cuban President Díaz-Canel stressed the “deep and historic ties” that his country has enjoyed with its “brothers” in Mexico.
He recalled that Castro and other Cuban leaders planned the revolution while living in exile in Mexico.
Díaz-Canel highlighted the medical support that Cuba and its doctors have provided to Mexico over the decades.
The Cuban leader also thanked Mexico, noting it “has supported us historically in the battle for the lifting of the blockade, which has done so much damage to our economy, and especially to the health sector”.
While Díaz-Canel was visiting, López Obrador gave the Cuban leader the prestigious Mexican Order of the Aztec Eagle, the highest state honors for a foreign national.
Entrega de la Condecoración Orden Mexicana del Águila Azteca al presidente de Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canelhttps://t.co/WJtkhZdYea pic.twitter.com/V5SPfQJcMD
— Andrés Manuel (@lopezobrador_) February 12, 2023
Mexico’s President AMLO condemns neoliberalism, pledges support for public healthcare and education
López Obrador is one of the world’s most popular leaders, and has had a consistent approval rating of between 60 and 70% since he came to power in late 2018.
The main reason for this is that AMLO is the Mexico’s first left-wing president in decades, and he has reversed the neoliberal economic policies that dominated for so long, investing more money in social services and drastically increasing the minimum wage.
This incredible graph shows how much the real minimum wage (measured in purchasing power parity) has increased in Mexico under the left-wing government of President AMLO
Note how the minimum wage was totally stagnant in two decades of neoliberal governments
Credit: @mario_campa pic.twitter.com/ZlGxGvb5QF
— Ben Norton (@BenjaminNorton) December 25, 2022
In his February 11 speech in Campeche, AMLO denounced the “neoliberal period, which lasted 36 years in our country”.
The last Mexican head of state who pursued policies of economic nationalism was José López Portillo. In 1982, Miguel de la Madrid took power, and he began implementing neoliberal reforms – largely in response to a disastrous debt crisis and hyperinflation that were fueled by a skyrocketing increase in interest rates under US Federal Reserve chair Paul Volcker.
AMLO referred to this neoliberal period as the era of “Neo-Porfirismo”, referencing former military dictator Porfirio Díaz, who ruled from 1876 to 1911.
Díaz’s rule ended with the Mexican Revolution. AMLO invoked the historical legacy of this revolution to explain the “Fourth Transformation” that he is leading today.
In the neoliberal period, “Policies were applied to benefit the minority, the oligarchy. They talked about democracy, but in reality it was an oligarchy”, AMLO said.
“No one wanted to go and work in rural hospitals, where specialists were needed”, he added. “Because of that, we are very grateful for the doctors from the brotherly people of Cuba… for helping us, so that doctors and specialists could cover all of the country”.
“It is something truly terrible, even unbelievable”, AMLO continued. “In the 36 years of neoliberal politics, they sold off the public companies, the nation’s banks, the railroads, the mines, the ports, the airports. They also carried out privatization of the electricity and oil industries”.
“And they didn’t stop, not even in relation to education and healthcare. The so-called structural reforms aimed to put education and healthcare on the market, as if they were goods for sale, with the goal so that those who wanted to study or get medical attention had to pay”.
“Fortunately, the people said ‘Enough!’, and, in a democratic way, decided to change these politics and carry out a transformation”, AMLO said. “Also to confront the tremendous decay that we suffered. The corruption brought about a process of gradual degradation in all of the fields of public life”.
“And to confront decay, there is no alternative option other than a deep transformation, to pull out the roots of the regime of injustices, of corruption, of privileges. And that is what is being done in Mexico”, López Obrador declared.
“We are pushing forward on education, pushing forward with healthcare, so that they aren’t like what the corrupt neoliberal privatizers wanted, as privileges, but rather as rights for our people”.
“The state cannot fail in its social responsibility. The state is obligated to guarantee public education, free and of good quality, at all levels”.
Today, AMLO said, his government’s “goal is to establish a system of public health, to guarantee the people’s right to healthcare”.
He said his priority is also expanded access to inexpensive medicines. “Because, in the times of neoliberalism, the sale of medicines was a big business”, López Obrador recalled. He noted large pharmaceutical companies made huge profits through corruption, selling overpriced medicines to the government at unfair prices.
“Because the right to healthcare is a fundamental human right, and it cannot be treated like a market”, he added.
AMLO revealed that his government has opened nearly 100 medical schools to train doctors and nurses, and he plans on creating 55 more across the country before his term ends. His administration also doubled the number of scholarships available.
*Featured Image: Cuban President Miguel Díaz Canel (left) and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on February 11, 2023
Ben Norton is a journalist, writer, and filmmaker. He was an editor at The Grayzone, and the producer of the Moderate Rebels podcast for a number of years. His current website is Geopolitical Economy, and he tweets at @BenjaminNorton.