In the midst of the war in Ukraine, the Chamber of Deputies of Mexico has installed this Wednesday a group of Friendship with Russia. The act was promoted by the parliamentary group of the Labor Party (PT), part of the ruling bloc. The wink of the Mexican Legislature towards the Kremlin has sparked controversy and has sparked outrage among the opposition, not only because it comes a couple of days after the Russian invasion is completed, but also because the position of the Government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador has been openly condemning Moscow’s aggression in the Security Council and the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN).
The moment to install the bilateral friendship group has been so questioned that it was part of the speech delivered by the Russian ambassador to Mexico, Víktor Koronelli, in the lower house. “This mechanism is for us a sign of support, solidarity and friendship”, said Koronelli and thanked the gesture for having taken place “in these complicated times”. From then on, the Russian version of the conflict, branded as propaganda by all Western democracies, resounded on the walls of the Mexican Congress. The Russian representation has insisted on the need to “denazify” Ukraine, to justify the gag imposed on the foreign and local press in Russia, to claim the illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula and the occupation of the Lugansk and Donbas regions, and in denying war crimes committed against civilians.
“Russia did not start this war, it is ending it,” Koronelli said. “We have faced an unprecedented media war,” he added. In the midst of the Russian feast, the ambassador continued with the attack against Ukraine: he has assured that the Ukrainian Army “uses women and children as human shields”, has condemned “the false news” that prevails in the West and has said that his country is prey of “discrimination and racial hatred”.
Congressman Alberto Anaya, leader of the PT and president of the friendship group, has not hesitated to praise the Russian ambassador. “We appreciate the pertinent information given to us about the conflict in Ukraine,” said Anaya. Augusto Gómez, a veteran deputy of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), has recalled that as a child he was taught to sing the anthem of the Socialist International and that former president Lázaro Cárdenas received the Stalin Peace Prize. Gómez has spiced up his intervention by condemning “imperialism” and thanking the Russian ambassador for representing his “heroic people” and for “illuminating the thinking” of the Mexican deputies.
Koronelli has said that Mexico’s condemnation of his country’s “special military operation,” the euphemism used by President Vladimir Putin when declaring war, was not going to harm the relationship between the two countries. “We respect the position of the Mexican Government,” said the ambassador. “Our relationship with Mexico has a strategic nature and is based on mutual respect for national interests,” he added. The diplomatic representative also thanked Mexico for its decision not to provide military support or send weapons to Ukraine.
The controversy ignited since Tuesday night, when the Congress Channel networks published a message for the installation of the friendship group. The original intention was to install it from March 14, but it was postponed “out of prudence” after the opposition Citizen’s Movement party claimed that it meant sending the wrong signal in the midst of the war against Ukraine and the international isolation of Russia as a result of the conflict. The consensus in the Political Coordination Board (Jucopo), which brings together representatives of all political forces, was that it was not the right time. The allusion to the lack of prudence came from Ignacio Mier, the parliamentary coordinator of Morena, López Obrador’s party. It also appeared in the declarations of the PRI Rubén Moreira, the president of the Jucopo.
All in all, the group was announced with the scheduled participation of 10 Mexican deputies from five different parties: two from the PT, three from Morena, one from the PRI, one from the Party of the Democratic Revolution and three from the conservative National Action Party (PAN). The PAN bench left the inauguration moments before the meeting began. “We have decided not to participate,” the PAN parliamentary group said in a statement. “For no reason do we agree to be part of the recklessness and insensitivity of the situation that Ukraine is going through,” he added. Movimiento Ciudadano insisted on its claim against the group.
The PT, traditionally a satellite party with marginal representation, has promoted in its almost 30 years of existence shows of solidarity and support for regimes such as North Korea, Nicaragua and Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela. Bilateral friendship groups with China and Serbia were also installed this week, in acts that went practically unnoticed in the Chamber of Deputies.
López Obrador said in his morning conference that his government was not going to assume a leading role or as an intermediary in the conflict. “We are not going to participate either for or against it, it is a position of neutrality of ours, which has to do with Mexico’s foreign policy,” he has pointed out. The change of tone, after the strong condemnation made by the country at the end of February, occurs while the head of Foreign Relations, Marcelo Ebrard, is on a work tour of Asia and the Middle East. The position that he had assumed had caused friction in some hard core of the Lopez Obrador bases and the installation of the friendship group with Russia is the most visible sign of that disagreement to date.
“It is difficult for Mexican diplomacy to seek peace solutions in the UN to the Russian invasion, and for Mexico to continue supporting the Putin regime”, questioned the independent deputy Emilio Álvarez Icaza. It remains to be seen if the installation of the friendship group goes beyond the plane of the symbolic and histrionic and represents a step back from the position that Mexico had assumed in the first four weeks of the Russian offensive in Ukraine.
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