14ymedio/EFE, Havana, 18 September 2021 — The president of Uruguay, Luis Lacalle Pou, and the Cuban leader, Miguel Díaz-Canel, staged an exchange of accusations this Saturday at the VI Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac), in Mexico. The discussion began when the Uruguayan showed his concern because on the island, and in Venezuela and Nicaragua “there is not a full democracy” and opponents are imprisoned.
Lacalle’s speech began by recognizing that two principles promoted by Celac are “self-determination and non-intervention” but he also described democracy as “the best system that individuals have to be free” and that, for that reason, “participating in this forum does not mean being complacent.”
After that introduction, his criticisms were even more direct: “When one sees that in certain countries there is no full democracy, when the separation of powers is not respected, when the repressive apparatus is used to silence protests, when opponents are imprisoned, when human rights are not respected, we in a calm but firm voice must say with concern that we look seriously at what is happening in Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.”
Lacalle’s statements gave rise to a strong exchange of words between the two leaders, which was only partially broadcast on Cuban television, but which is already generating comments in support of the Uruguayan on social networks for his direct comments to the President and First Secretary of the Communist Party on the island.
Visibly annoyed, Díaz-Canel responded to Lacalle saying that with his words he was showing a lack of knowledge of the Cuban reality. “The courage of the Cuban people was demonstrated for six decades. Listen to your people who collected more than 700,000 signatures against the LUC (Law of Urgent Consideration). Monroism and the OAS is what you have just defended,” he said.
The Uruguayan asked for the floor again and addressed Díaz-Canel: “If there is something that is true in my country, luckily, it is that the opposition can gather signatures, in my country, luckily, the opposition has democratic resources to lodge complaints, that is the great difference with the Cuban regime,” he added.
Lacalle went further and added: “I just want to quote, and they are not my words, it is a very beautiful song and those who sing it feel oppressed by the Government: ’No longer shall flow the blood / Of those who dare to think differently / Who told you Cuba is yours? / Indeed, Cuba is for all my people’,” he added, quoting the song Patria y Vida.
El miedo de la dictadura de @DiazCanelB es tal, que mandó a que cortaran la transmisión para que en #Cuba ñó escucharan la estrofa de #PatriaYVida con al que el presidente de #Uruguay @LuisLacallePou respondió a sus irrespetuosas palabras. pic.twitter.com/bfRDIgv0Rf
— Mario J. Pentón (@MarioJPenton) September 18, 2021
Díaz-Canel, abruptly demanding the floor, replied in a sour tone: “I think that things should not be left unclear, it seems that President Lacalle has very bad taste in music, that song is totally a lie and a construction among some artists against the Cuban revolution.”
The clash between the leaders of Uruguay and Cuba was not the only one on a day in which Celac has shown its deep internal differences, most of them linked to the issue of respect for human rights, authoritarian regimes and repression against dissent.
Mario Abdo Benítez, president of Paraguay, asserted that his presence at the summit “in no sense or circumstance represents recognition of the Government of Mr. Nicolás Maduro.”
“There is no change in the position of my Government and I think it is gentlemanly to say it up front,” said Abdo Benítez. Immediately Maduro responded by shouting from the other side of the room: “Nor mine to yours!”
Later, when it was the turn of the Venezuelan ruler before the microphone, he went further: “And I say to the president of Paraguay: Set the date, place and time for a debate on democracy! In Paraguay, in Venezuela and Latin America! And we are ready to give it, name your place!”
For his part, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, president of Mexico, inaugurated the summit, in which more than a dozen leaders of the region participate, with the call that something similar to the European Union (EU) be built in the area.
In his welcome message López Obrador highlighted the need to “build on the American continent something similar to what was the economic community that gave rise to the current European Union.”
He also criticized the lack of support from the United States Government, as he stressed that since 1961 that country invested 10 billion dollars in 10 years (82 billion dollars at the current exchange rate) for the benefit of the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean.
“It has been the only important thing that has been done in terms of cooperation for development in our continent in more than half a century,” he said.
He affirmed that it is time to end “the lethargy” and propose a “new and vigorous” relationship, in addition to replacing the policy of “blockades and mistreatment with the option of respecting ourselves.”
For López Obrador, it would be a gesture of “goodwill” for the United States to make donations of vaccines against covid-19 to countries in the region that have not had the possibility of protecting their peoples against the coronavirus.
Cuban leader Miguel Diaz-Canel denounced, for the second time since his arrival in Mexico, the “opportunistic campaign of US interests against Cuba” and that the US embargo has been tightened while the island suffers “conditions due to the pandemic.”
“The interventionism of the United States is a flagrant violation of international rights,” Diaz-Canel said.
For his part, the Bolivian president, Luis Arce, criticized the Organization of American States (OAS) and called for an organization “that functions with democratic practices and that responds to reality by supporting the sovereignty of the countries and without interference.”
“The OAS is useless,” said Arce, who praised Mexico’s work in favor of Celac as an organization that defends that “financial interests cannot be above social interests.”
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