Fox in 2013.
Former President of Mexico Vicente Fox talks during a news conference with marijuana entrepreneur and CEO of Diego Pellicer Inc. Jamen Shively (not pictured) in Seattle, Washington, May 30, 2013. Reuters/Marcus Donner

The administration of Enrique Peña Nieto announced on Friday that it would waive 70 percent of the $487 million in debt Cuba owes to Mexico, according to Reuters. Former Mexican president Vicente Fox, never too keen on the island’s government, doesn’t like the move. On Sunday, he compared the Cuban government to the chupacabras, a mythical blood-sucking creature. “I don’t see why the debt ought to be forgiven,” said Fox. “Let the Cubans get to work and generate their own money…They’re normally like chupacabras. The only thing they’re looking for is someone to give them money for free.”

Mexican Finance Minister Luis Videgaray said on Friday that Mexico would pardon much of the longstanding debt (it’s been owed for 15 years) and give Cuba another 10 years to pay the other 30 percent, so that "things would flow well" between the two countries. Mexico-Cuba relations were tight under the 70-year reign of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) – Animal Politico notes that Mexico was the only Latin American country which elected to defy heavy US pressure to join the 1959 embargo against Cuba – but things changed with the arrival of Vicente Fox in office in 2000.

Seeking to deepen ties with the United States back then, Fox spoke with Fidel Castro on the phone in a conversation Castro secretly taped, and asked the Cuban leader to “leave me free” on the last day of a world leadership conference in Monterrey, so that he could spend it with then-US President George W. Bush. Mexico later cast the crucial vote in a decision to censure Cuba with the UN Human Rights Commission, and in an act of vengeance for what he saw as a stab in the back, Castro released the secret recording, which appeared to prove Fox had lied in saying he’d never requested Castro leave the conference early.

Fox said the move by the Peña Nieto administration was reminiscent of old-style political maneuvers from a party that once held absolute power in Mexico. “That’s the old PRI. That’s the old Priista philosophy of that rule: that you have to respect other countries…The PAN [Fox’s party] has a different philosophy, and my government had a different philosophy: as long as they’re not democratic, there’s no reason to build relationships with those countries because, in the end, they’re not going to give anything back to Mexico.”

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