Cuba-Mexico diplomatic dispute heats up

/ Source: The Associated Press

Mexico and Peru have recalled their ambassadors from Havana after Cuban President Fidel Castro condemned the two countries for supporting a U.N. resolution criticizing his government’s human rights record.

The Mexican government, which accused the communist island of meddling in its internal affairs, also expelled the Cuban ambassador. The actions, which were announced Sunday night, stopped short of severing diplomatic relations completely.

Castro has bitterly denounced last month’s U.N. Human Rights Commission vote, accusing the United States of forcing other nations to support the resolution.

Castro said Saturday that the prestige Mexico once gained in Latin America and throughout the world for its independent foreign policies had “turned to ash” as it began toeing the line for the United States.

In Washington, Secretary of State Colin Powell defended the actions of Mexico and Peru and described Castro’s accusations against them as “outrageous.”

Political aide expelled from Cuba
Cuba, meanwhile, expelled the aide of a man at the center of a political scandal in Mexico. Cuba said the aide, Antonio Martinez Ocampo, had been deported because his presence “could cause serious damage to our country,” although he had broken no Cuban laws.

Martinez Ocampo arrived in Cuba with Carlos Ahumada, a businessman who was deported to Mexico last week. Ahumada filmed himself making large payments to Mexico City officials and activists in the city’s governing Democratic Revolution Party.

Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has accused officials in President Vicente Fox’s government of conspiring with Ahumada to create a scandal that would damage his chances to seek Mexico’s presidency in 2006.

Fox’s government last week protested Cuba’s statement that Ahumada had confirmed that he had been involved in a political plot.

Mexico defends U.N. vote
Mexico said its decision to withdraw its ambassador followed Castro’s public criticism of its support for last month’s U.N. resolution and other foreign policy decisions. It also cited unauthorized activities by visiting Cuban Communist Party members who failed to notify Mexican officials of their presence.

“We want to make clear that Mexico does not and will not tolerate, under any premise or circumstances, the attempt of any foreign government to influence our domestic or foreign policy decisions,” Foreign Secretary Luis Ernesto Derbez said late Sunday.

Peru also said Sunday that it was recalling its ambassador to Havana, Juan Alvarez Vita, after Castro condemned its support of the U.N. resolution and insulted President Alejandro Toledo in a May Day speech Saturday.

Peru’s Foreign Ministry issued a terse statement Sunday night saying it “energetically rejects the offensive remarks of the Cuban president against Peru and they will inevitably affect bilateral relations.”

Derbez said Monday he understood that Mexico’s ambassador to Cuba, Roberta Lajous, had already returned to Mexico from Cuba, and that Jorge Bolanos, Cuba’s ambassador to Mexico, was being expelled.

Derbez said suggestions that Mexico was influenced by the United States in the human rights vote were “insulting.”

Mexican Interior Secretary Santiago Creel accused Cuban Communist Party members of entering the country on diplomatic passports last month without advising Mexican officials and said they were “handling issues ... that should be dealt with through diplomatic channels.” He did not elaborate.

Derbez said the Cuban Embassy’s political affairs adviser, Orlando Silva, who allegedly facilitated their activities, had been ordered to leave Mexico immediately.