MEXICO CITY (AP) – Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel presided over the parade for Mexico’s Independence Day on Thursday, along with Mexican Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a visit not without controversy that follows protests against the Cuban government and whose repression drew international criticism.

“We have had friendly relations with the Cuban people for a long time,” said López Obrador, dismissing the criticism for the invitation he made to the Cuban leader, who will offer a speech during the commemorative events.

Díaz-Canel arrived in Mexico days before the VI Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), which is expected to be attended by 16 leaders and where a reinforcement of this integration forum with the Organization of American States is expected. (OAS), which Mexico opted to reform and in which the United States is also present but not Cuba.

The Cuban leader arrived in Mexico City in the morning accompanied, among others, by his Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez and the Minister of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment, Rodrigo Malmierca.

Before the multilateral meeting, Díaz-Canel will hold a meeting with López Obrador in which it is intended to deepen the political dialogue at the highest level and expand economic and commercial relations, investment and cooperation in areas such as health, according to the Cuban government .

This is the Cuban leader’s first trip abroad since the July protests, the largest since the 90s on the island and which were caused by a shortage of basic goods and power outages. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was one of the many entities that condemned the repression with which the authorities acted to dissolve them, the excessive use of force and the arrests that followed.

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Shortly afterwards, the Mexican government sent medicines, food and fuel to Cuba in what was the largest aid in humanitarian aid in decades, analysts agreed.

One of the first to criticize the Cuban’s visit was former President Felipe Calderón (2006-2012). “The leading role in the celebrations of the bicentennial of the consummation of the independence of a dictator who locks up dozens of Cuban citizens is unacceptable,” he said on his Twitter account.