MEXICO CITY, Mexico, Sept. 17, 2021 (Reuters) – Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel attended a lavish military parade at Mexico’s 200th anniversary of independence on Thursday, ahead of a summit that will convene recently elected members of a “pink tide” of leftist Latin American leaders.

The presidents of Argentina, Bolivia, Peru and elsewhere will meet on Saturday at the summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), a regional body that Venezuela’s late leader Hugo Chavez helped set up in 2011.

Diaz-Canel’s trip to Mexico is the Cuban leader’s first foreign visit since huge protests swept the island in July, shaking the communist government as it struggles to manage the coronavirus pandemic and shortages of food, fuel and medicine.

Mexico threw a lifeline to Havana during the demonstrations by sending ships loaded with fuel, food and oxygen tanks.

Diaz-Canel, who was one of the guests of honor at an independence day military parade in Mexico City, said the help came at a vital time as Cuba suffered “the ravages of a multidimensional war,” referring to the crippling U.S. blockade of the island.

“Under the fire of that total war, the solidarity of Mexico with Cuba has awakened in our people greater admiration and the deepest gratitude,” he said in a speech after the parade.

Mexico’s leftist president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who has in the past criticised the U.S. embargo, called for Washington to “lift the blockade against Cuba because no state has the right to subdue another people, another country.”

On Saturday, CELAC will discuss the region’s response to the pandemic and the creation of a fund to respond to disasters derived from climate change.

It is also expected that Mexico, as president pro tempore of CELAC, will push for a unified proposal to replace or reform the Organization of American States (OAS). Some CELAC members see OAS as an “interventionist” instrument of the United States.

Latin America’s left made its greatest strides with the first “pink tide” of socialist leaders in the early 2000s. Some of those, such as Chavez and Bolivia’s Evo Morales, have died or been toppled.

Along with Lopez Obrador, the new wave of leftist Latin leaders expected to be among the 16 confirmed heads of state at CELAC include Peru’s Pedro Castillo, Bolivia’s Luis Arce and Argentina’s Alberto Fernandez.

(Reporting by Diego Ore; Editing by Drazen Jorgic, Michael Perry and Sonya Hepinstall)

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