Mexico pulls Azerbaijan statue from park

Mexico City removes monument of late Azerbaijan Communist leader from city after a wave of public criticism.
Last Modified: 26 Jan 2013 20:10
Mexico City said that the statue Geidar Aliyev, a former Communist Party leader, was being held in safe keeping [EPA]

Mexico City authorities have removed a statue of the late leader of Azerbaijan from a park where it had stood for almost half a year at a prominent spot along the city's main boulevard.

The city had struggled for months to find a way to address a wave of criticism about the monument to Geidar Aliyev, a former Communist Party boss who died in 2003.

In the end, the city sent police and workers into the park in the pre-dawn darkness of Saturday to loosen the life-size, seated bronze statue from its marble plinth, swath it in protective wrapping and haul it away.

The city government said in a statement that it had removed the statue and was holding it in safe keeping.

But it said it was still in talks with the Embassy of Azerbaijan about where to put the statue.

The statement didn't say where it had been taken, but local media showed photos of the statue being hauled on a flat-bed truck to a government warehouse in an unfashionable district of the city.

City officials had previously suggested the statue might be moved to an indoor setting, perhaps in some sort of Azerbaijani cultural centre.

But the city apparently cannot just hide the statue away, given the $5 million Azerbaijan has paid to restore the park, erect the monument and perform other public works.

The Azerbaijani Embassy suggested in a statement in October that removing the statue could affect diplomatic relations between the former Soviet satellite and Mexico.

It said the city government had signed an agreement stipulating the monument should be allowed to remain in the spot for 99 years.

Officials of the Azerbaijani Embassy did not immediately answer phone calls seeking comment on Saturday.

The city government said it "reiterates its great respect for the Azerbaijani people, their culture and traditions, and repeats that it is open to dialogue with their embassy.''

Authoritarian record

"Mexico doesn't need to import, in exchange for money, tyrants from other countries, nor make others conflicts our own. "

- Homero Aridjis, activist

Some Mexico City residents had complained about the homage to Aliyev, noting his authoritarian record.

The late leader had been criticised for repressing opponents and critics in his oil-rich Caspian Sea nation.

The city's most high-profile street, Reforma boulevard is best known for its monuments to Mexican independence heroes.

Mexican activist and writer Homero Aridjis, who helped lead opposition to the statue, said Aliyev's addition there was inappropriate. 

Aridjis said he welcomed the government's move. "Mexico doesn't need to import, in exchange for money, tyrants from other countries, nor make others conflicts our own,'' Aridjis wrote in an email.

"We already have enough of our own problems.''

A second Azerbaijani statue appears in Tlaxcoaque park in downtown Mexico City, which the country also paid to renovate.

It depicts a woman, her arms uplifted in mourning, commemorating Khojaly, a village where hundreds of
Azerbaijanis were reportedly killed during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between ethnic Armenians and the Republic of Azerbaijan, from 1988 to 1994.

Activists objected to that monument because a plaque describes the Khojaly killings as a genocide, a term more commonly applied to the slaying of about 1.5 million Armenians in the region in 1915.

Critics also say a monument to Mexican suffering would have been more appropriate for Tlaxcoaque square, a site once used as a Mexican police interrogation and torture centre.

It's unclear what the city plans to do with the Tlaxcoaque monument.


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