Authorities in Mexico City have removed a controversial statue of Azerbaijan’s late authoritarian President Heydar Aliyev from a prominent area of a park in the Mexican capital.
The life-sized bronze likeness of Aliyev was taken down early January 26 by city workers and driven away from Chapultepec Park.
All that remained at the spot was a giant marble map of Azerbaijan.
The whereabouts of the statue were not immediately clear. No comment was immediately available from Azerbaijani officials.
Baku had earlier warned of damage to Azerbaijan's relations with Mexico if the statue was removed -- including the potential closure of its embassy and the suspension of Azerbaijani investments in Mexico.
The statue’s presence along the prominent Paseo de la Reforma had sparked controversy since it was unveiled in August, 2012.
Azerbaijan’s government paid around $5 million for the renovation of the section of the park where the statue was erected and other public works. That corner of the park was named "Mexico-Azerbaijan Friendship Park."
Azerbaijan has said Mexico City’s government signed an agreement allowing the monument to remain on the spot for 99 years.
Mexico City's government said in a statement January 26 that it has "great respect for the Azerbaijani people, their culture and traditions,” and is ready for dialogue with the Azerbaijani embassy over what should be done with the statue.
Officials have offered to relocate the statue to another area of Mexico City.
Protesters said they were offended by the monument to Aliyev, who is regarded by many has having led an authoritarian, rights-abusing regime during his years as ruler of the energy-rich Caspian Sea country.
Aliyev was Azerbaijan’s longtime Communist Party chief during the Soviet era. He ruled as independent Azerbaijan’s president from 1993 until shortly before his death in 2003. Aliyev’s son Ilham, Azerbaijan’s current president, succeeded his father.
Azerbaijani officials have accused Armenians of being behind the movement to remove the statue. Neighboring Armenia and Azerbaijan have hostile relations over Nagorno-Karabakh -- the mainly ethnic-Armenian populated separatist region of Azerbaijan -- and other issues.
Mexican writer and activist Homero Aridjis, president of an association of artists and intellectuals opposed to the statue, said the statue was inappropriate, in part because Azerbaijan is almost completely unknown in Mexico.
He also said Mexicans don’t have an interest in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
In November, a Mexican advisory commission said authorities had erred by accepting money to allow a foreign government to essentially decide which political figures or historic events should be commemorated in Mexico City’s public spaces.
The commission also recommended that authorities take action over a second Azerbaijani-funded monument in Mexico City’s Tlaxcoaque Plaza.
This statue commemorates Khojaly, a village where Azerbaijan says hundreds of Azerbaijanis were killed by Armenian forces during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
The commission said a plaque on the monument calling the Azerbaijani deaths "genocide" was misleading.
The Mexico City monument to Aliyev is just one of more than 10 that have been erected in foreign countries.
Other countries that are home to Aliyev statues include Turkey, Georgia, Egypt, Iraq, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Ukraine, Serbia, Romania, and Moldova.
Based on reporting by AP, Reuters, and AFP