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Mexico and Peru ambassadors leave Cuba

Both Latin American countries took the decision of removing top diplomatic personnel from Havana, shortly after Castro's regime criticised them for condemning the Human Rights policy of the Island at a UN forum.

Following Castro's May Day speech in which harshly criticised Mexico and Peru for voting against Cuba at the UN Human Rights committee, both Latin American countries opted for pulling their ambassadors from Havana and review their policies toward the Island.

Castro’s speech on Mexico was direct: the veteran Cuban revolutionary said Mexico’s prestige in the world had "turned into ashes” after supporting the condemnatory US resolution. Castro also lashed out at Lima, saying Peru was an example of the "wretchedness and dependency" left by neo-liberal economic policies. He slammed unpopular President Alejandro Toledo as a man who "does not and cannot direct anything." Castro took advantage of Toledo's incredibly low popularity within his country: just 8 percent of approval rating, according to the last researches.

Mexico, in turn, announced on Monday it has pulled its ambassador from Havana and accused Cuba of interfering in its internal affairs, as bitterness over Mexico's close relations with the United States comes to a head. Peru, which also criticised the Communist island's rights record, withdrew its envoy on Sunday alleging similar reasons.

"Mexico does not and will not tolerate under any circumstance any foreign government trying to affect our decisions on foreign or domestic policy," Foreign Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez told a news conference.

Mexico and Cuba traditionally held correct relations, which even improved after Castro’s-led 1959 revolution. In fact, Castros’ guerrillas that later ousted corrupted dictator Fulgencio Batista had trained and had found shelter in Mexico before launching its offensive in Cuban soil. However, relations have fallen to an all time low under conservative President Vicente Fox, who has swung Mexico closer to Washington since taking power in 2000.

Mexico last week said it would protest officially to Havana over comments the Cuban foreign ministry made about a corruption scandal that has dented the presidential ambitions of Mexico City's leftist mayor. The Fox government was angered by Cuban suggestions that it was using the scandal to undermine the popular mayor, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, versions that independent observers have also taken seriously.

A Foreign Ministry statement in Lima said Peru rejected Castro's "offensive" comments and was downgrading its diplomatic representation to a business attache. It is the second time Toledo's government has pulled out its envoy. Argentina did the same in 2001 when under former conservative president Fernando de la Rua voted against Cuba and Castro said the South American government was a Washington’s puppet. However, as Argentina adopted a more independent line in foreign affairs under president Kirchner, both countries restored full diplomatic ties last year.

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