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Home News Mexico leader defends freedom and democracy

Mexico leader defends freedom and democracy

Published on 08/09/2012

Mexican President Felipe Calderon launched an impassioned defence of freedom and democracy on Saturday, at an Asia Pacific summit hosted by Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

Discussions at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) annual leaders’ gathering normally concentrate on trade, but the Mexican leader turned instead to overtly political topics.

“We must believe and support freedom and democracy in any point of the world,” Calderon, whose party ousted opponents who had ruled for more than 70 years at polls in 2000, told a business forum on the summit sidelines.

“We need to stand for democracy and for freedom, we need to fight for them every single day,” he said, adding they were essential for prosperity and “the future of humankind”.

“My advice is stand on principles, believe and fight for freedom in economics and politics as well.”

Calderon, who has less than three months left in office, specifically referred to freedom of speech, which critics say is under threat in Russia and seriously curbed in neighbouring China, as well as freedom of assembly.

Putin was voted back to the Kremlin this year but international observers said the election was skewed in his favour during the campaign and the ballot marred by irregularities.

More recently international concern was aroused by the two-year prison terms handed to members of punk band Pussy Riot for protesting against the Russian leader in a Moscow cathedral.

Putin has described their antics as an “orgy” and defended their prosecution for hooliganism as necessary to protect religious believers’ feelings.

China, APEC’s most populous country and the world’s second-biggest economy, is ruled by the Communist Party, which used military force to crush the Tiananmen democracy protests in 1989.

Rights groups say China’s rulers often use subversion charges to jail government critics. Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo was convicted of the offence in 2009 and sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Calderon declined to identify any countries as the object of his comments.

“My duty as head of the Mexican state is be to prudent and respect the rights and sovereignty of other countries, but I hope that in the future every country in the world will have these rights,” he told AFP afterwards.

During the official session at the business forum, Calderon said authoritarianism was “in the past”.

“Either rightist dictatorship or leftist dictatorship, for me it’s the same, it’s a problem of lack of freedom, it’s a problem of lack of democracy, it’s a problem of lack of human rights.”

The “future in politics”, he said, was democracy and freedom.

“As long as we are able to preserve the right of the people to decide which government they prefer, we are on the right side.”