The federal government came under fire in both Mexico and the United States for welcoming the leaders of Cuba and Venezuela for a regional summit on Saturday.

The head of the National Action Party (PAN) and two Republican lawmakers were critical of Mexico’s reception of Miguel Díaz-Canel and Nicolás Maduro for the 2021 Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) summit, held at the National Palace in Mexico City.

“López Obrador has turned Mexico into a dictators’ meeting place,” PAN national president Marko Cortés wrote on Twitter 0n Saturday.

“He’s using his pro tempore leadership of CELAC to degrade our country,” he said. “As a free and democratic country we should be condemning the methods of torture used in Cuba and Venezuela.”

Cortés was also critical of López Obrador’s complimentary remarks about Cuba while hosting Díaz-Canel for Independence Day celebrations last week.

“It’s an aberration that our current president says that Cuba is a [great] example of a nation,” he said. “Could it be because it’s a totalitarian state that persecutes he who thinks differently [and] where freedoms and rights are not respected? A disgrace!”

Ex-president Vicente Fox, who held office for the PAN between 2000 and 2006, and former first lady Margarita Zavala, whose husband Felipe Calderón also represented the PAN, expressed support for Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benítez, who rejected the legitimacy of Maduro’s presidency at Saturday’s summit.

In the United States, Congressman Michael McCaul, a Republican party representative for Texas, released a statement to decry the attendance of the Cuban and Venezuelan leaders at the CELAC summit.

“As a strong supporter of the U.S.-Mexico relationship, I am disappointed the government of Mexico is hosting Cuba and Venezuela’s dictators, and seeking to weaken the Organization of American States [OAS],” the head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee wrote.

“The Venezuelan and Cuban regimes have Americans unlawfully imprisoned and commit serious human rights violations. Nicolás Maduro also has an open indictment in the U.S. for narco-terrorism. Our Western Hemisphere is stronger with the OAS as the preeminent forum, and member states must remain committed to democratic governance and upholding human rights.”

McCaul previously rejected Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard’s call for the Washington-headquartered OAS, which was established in 1948, to be replaced with a new organization for the 21st century.

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Representative María Elvira Salazar of Florida, the daughter of Cuban exiles, posted a video message to social media to denounce López Obrador’s invitation to Díaz-Canel.

She expressed sympathy to “my poor Mexican brothers and sisters” because they have a president “of such little stature – not just intellectually but also morally” who invited and showed reverence to a leader who keeps the Cuban people in misery.

The United States government hasn’t formally responded to López Obrador’s calls for it to lift the trade embargo on Cuba, but new U.S. Ambassador Ken Salazar urged Mexico not to get distracted from its bilateral relationship with its neighbor.

“We respect the sovereignty of Mexico [but] our position, that of the United States, in Cuba is that we’re going to continue fighting for democracy. … My perspective is that the United States and Mexico [should be] focused more on the things we can do [together] and not get distracted from what we have to do,” the ambassador said during a weekend trip to Tabasco.

With reports from Expansión PolíticaReforma and Milenio 

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