Mexico, Peru pull envoys to Cuba
From Harris Whitbeck
MEXICO CITY, Mexico (CNN) -- Mexico has recalled its ambassador to Cuba following a blistering May Day speech by the island nation's communist leader, Fidel Castro.
Castro's tirade followed a U.N. vote last week condemning Cuba's human rights record. Latin American neighbors Mexico, Peru and Chile supported the resolution.
The Cuban president railed against Mexico, saying it has lost its prestige in the world community, especially because of its support for the U.S.-backed resolution.
"The Foreign Ministry reports that it decided today to modify the bilateral relationship with Cuba, maintaining it at the level of chargé d'affaires," a statement on the Mexican Foreign Ministry's Web site said.
"This does not signify a break in the diplomatic relationship between Mexico and Cuba."
Mexico also declared a Cuba diplomat "persona non grata," with Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Ernesto Derbez ordering him to leave the country immediately.
Peru also has pulled its ambassador from Havana, according to Peru's exterior minister.
The minister, Jose Manuel Rodriguez, said Castro's criticisms of Lima's foreign policy was offensive to the Peruvian government.
Following Mexico's announcement, demonstrators gathered outside the Cuban Embassy in the Mexican capital in support of Havana.
Mexican leftist politicians have long backed the Castro government.
Relations have been on a downward spiral since Mexican President Vicente Fox took office in 2000.
At a U.N. summit for development that year, Fox was embarrassed by Castro, who publicized an audiotape of a conversation in which the Mexican leader asked him to leave before President Bush's arrival.
An ongoing domestic political scandal also has added fuel to the fire.
Carlos Ahumada, a Mexican businessman accused of fraud, fled to Cuba, where officials alleged he said he had been involved in a government plot to discredit Mexico City's leftist mayor, a member of the opposition party.
Despite the current tension, Mexico appeared to hold out hope for a reconciliation.
"When the conditions of friendship and respect that should exist between nations are reconstructed, Mexico hopes to regain the level of friendship and trust which has always characterized our countries," Derbez said.