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Fox and Fidel Have a Falling Out By: Allan Wall
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, April 29, 2002


ON APRIL 23, Cuban tyrant Fidel Castro took to the airwaves in Havana to denounce the perfidy of --Mexico?

For the first time since the Cuban Revolution, harsh words are flying between longtime allies Cuba and Mexico. What does this portend?

What is so special about the Mexico-Cuban relationship anyway?

For the Castro regime, Mexico represents its oldest ally in the hemisphere, the country where Fidel himself spent time as an exile before taking power in Cuba.

For the Mexican government, friendship with Cuba is important to demonstrate its independence from the gringos. For years Mexico has thumped the drum for Castro while simultaneously becoming more and more economically dependent on the United States.

The new Mexican administration of Vicente Fox had not, up until now, altered much the traditional orientation toward Cuba. Fox has declared his admiration for Cuba’s educational and medical systems, and invited Castro to his inauguration. Just a few scant months ago Fox visited Fidel in Havana and all seemed splendid for the two amigos as inhabitants of Havana shouted "Viva Fidel! Viva Fox!"

But oh how things have changed!

The big UN gabfest in Monterrey, Mexico last month set the stage for the present crisis. After delivering an uncharacteristically brief discourse, Fidel excused himself from the conference and returned abruptly to Cuba. He had informed the audience at Monterrey that "due to a special situation resulting from my participation in the summit....I am obliged to return immediately to my country."

Why did Castro leave? Cuban officials subsequently accused the Fox administration of ordering Fidel’s departure – at the behest of the Bush administration, no less. This was unequivocally denied by both the Bush and Fox administrations.

The Mexican media continued to harp on the topic for several weeks, and worried voices expressed concern for Mexican-Cuban relations.

It was also significant because the UN "Human Rights Commission" at Geneva was about to vote on a measure, sponsored by Uruguay, criticizing Cuba’s human rights record. The big question was, would Mexico actually vote against the Castro regime? It never had before, although during the previous Zedillo administration it had begun to waver by abstaining rather than voting for Cuba.

But then, on April 19, for the first time ever , Mexico voted against the Castro regime, an action which did not go over well with the country’s many influential Castro-at-all-costs supporters.

Nor, needless to say, did it go over well at all with Castro, who felt personally attacked by the Mexican government.

So, on April 22, Fidel released his bombshell- The Tape.

The Tape proved that Fox had – ahem – been less than truthful when denying that he had asked Castro to leave the conference early. On March 19, shortly before the summit, Vicente Fox had personally called Fidel in Havana and Castro had taped the conversation. It’s all there on the tape, which was played on Mexican television after its release by Castro. President Fox, citing concerns of "security and attention" caused by Fidel’s late RSVP to the gabfest, had clearly asked Fidel to give his speech, dine with Fox, and then leave the conference. The Mexican president had additionally asked Fox not to attack the United States at the summit. And, as an "amigo", Fox asked Fidel not to divulge the conversation.

So Fidel Castro was sitting on that tape until after the Geneva vote, and when he saw Mexico didn’t vote his way, released the tape.

The Mexican government responded the same day with a statement which, among other things, correctly contrasted the state of liberty of expression in Mexico with that in Cuba, where it doesn’t exist.

Not that there hasn’t been plenty of political fallout here in Mexico. Of course there has. Fox was portrayed by the opposition as sold out to American interests, and support for the Cuban regime was voiced. No surprise there, given both the strength of the Mexican Castro lobby and the political need for the opposition to oppose the president anyway.

Plenty of questions remain: Why did Fox do it? Did he really believe Castro would tolerate such a slight? Did Bush really tell Fox to do it? Wouldn’t it have been better to just allow Fidel to have his little rant than provoke an incident? And how will it significantly affect the triangular relationship between the U.S., Mexico and Cuba?

On the immigration question, you can expect President Fox to continue his push for the United States to amnesty Mexican illegal aliens and effectively move toward an open border with Mexico. That’s what Fox wants anyway, and it additionally serves as a defense against the charge of having sold out to American interests.

On the American side, we should resist calls to support the Fox administration by giving him what he wants on immigration. Why? Because what Fox wants the U.S. in its immigration policy is bad for America.

But simultaneously, the U.S. can and should work with President Fox, as the president of Mexico and not as "our man in Mexico", which he is not, on matters of common interest that benefit both nations.

Hopefully, Fidel’s angry attacks on the Mexican government may provoke more and more ordinary Mexicans to ask the question "What does Fidel Castro really do for Mexico anyway?" Maybe someday, the practice of selling Castro Mexican oil at discount prices might be re-considered.

The Mexico-Cuba crisis demonstrates Castro’s further isolation in Latin America. It was Uruguay, for example, which sponsored the human rights resolution. Latin Americans themselves are taking the lead in opposing the Castro regime. And that’s a positive development, because U.S. opposition to Castro automatically carries along unpleasant baggage in Latin America. So let the Latin Americans handle it.

No matter what though, things in Cuba aren’t likely to significantly improve as long as Fidel Castro holds power. But one way or another, Fidel’s days are numbered....


Allan Wall (allan39@provalue.net) recently returned to the U.S. after having resided many years in Mexico.


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