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Mexico, Peru recall Cuba envoys

Diplomacy said at delicate stage

MEXICO CITY -- Mexico's ambassador to Cuba returned home yesterday, recalled after Fidel Castro condemned the government for supporting a UN resolution criticizing Cuba's human rights record. Peru recalled its ambassador from Cuba for the same reason.

The actions, announced late Sunday, stopped short of severing diplomatic relations but reduced them to the level of charges d'affaires. The Mexican government, accusing the communist island of meddling in its internal affairs, also expelled the Cuban ambassador.

An announcer on Cuban state television read a Foreign Ministry statement saying the Mexican declaration was "inspired by arrogance, haughtiness, obstinacy, and lies."

The announcer said Mexican officials informed Ambassador Jorge Bolanos of Cuba of his required departure by telephone "only five minutes before the declarations were made public."

"Another error by the Mexican government," the announcer said. He did not mention the Peruvian action.

Mexico's ambassador to Cuba, Roberta Lajous, arrived home yesterday, the Foreign Relations Department said, while Olga Beatriz Garcia was appointed charge d'affaires in Havana.

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

The Cuban leader 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 L. Powell defended the actions of Mexico and Peru and described as "outrageous" Castro's charges against the two countries.

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

Martinez Ocampo arrived in Cuba with businessman Carlos Ahumada, 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 he had been involved in a political plot.

Mexico said its decision to withdraw its ambassador followed Castro's public criticism of its support for last month's UN resolution and other foreign policy decisions.

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