Peru orders Mexican ambassador to leave country in latest escalation of tensions

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MEXICO CITY/LIMA — Peru declared Mexico’s ambassador in Lima a “persona non grata” and ordered him to leave the country on Tuesday, Peru’s foreign minister announced, in the latest escalation of tensions between the two countries after Peru ousted Pedro Castillo from the presidency.

The abrupt order, a severe measure in the world of diplomacy, gives Mexico’s envoy to the South American country just 72 hours to leave.

The Peruvian government’s decision comes hours after Mexico’s top diplomat announced that his country had granted asylum to Castillo’s family, who face accusations of rebellion behind bars after attempting what critics labeled a coup on Dec. 7.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Peru posted on social networks that the expulsion of the Mexican ambassador Pablo Monroy was due to “repeated statements by the highest authorities of that country on the political situation in Peru”, a veiled reference to the support that the president of Mexico has offered to fellow leftist Castillo since his ouster in an overwhelming vote by lawmakers and his subsequent imprisonment.

Mexico’s foreign minister took to Twitter late on Tuesday to criticize Monroy’s expulsion, deriding it as “unjustified and reprehensible”.

Last week, Mexican President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador sharply criticized last week’s removal of Castillo as undemocratic, stressing that he continues to recognize Castillo as Peru’s rightful leader.

Speaking at a news conference earlier in the day, Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said the government was negotiating safe passage for Castillo’s family, who were inside the Mexican embassy in Lima.

Ana Cecilia Gervasi, Peru’s foreign minister, announced on Tuesday that safe passage for Castillo’s wife and the couple’s two children had been formally approved.

Neither Mexican nor Peruvian officials have offered a timeline for when Lilia Paredes, Castillo’s wife, or their children will travel to Mexico.

Last week, the government of Mexico, along with left-wing Argentina, Bolivia and Colombia, issued a joint statement declaring Castillo the victim of “anti-democratic harassment”.

Days later, the week-long government of President Dina Boluarte, who previously served as Castillo’s vice president, summoned Peru’s ambassadors home for consultations over what she called unacceptable interference in the country’s internal affairs.

Separately on Tuesday, an important first step in Boluarte’s push for early elections was approved by lawmakers, with 93 in favor and just 30 against. The proposal would bring elections forward to April 2024, two years before elections currently scheduled for 2026.

Shortly after his attempt to dissolve Congress, Castillo himself attempted to flee to the Mexican Embassy, ​​but was apprehended by police before he arrived.

Also on Tuesday, a Peruvian court rejected a request by prosecutors to ban Paredes from leaving the country. She is under investigation for alleged involvement in a money laundering ring that could also implicate Castillo.

“Mexico is protecting the corrupt,” Peruvian opposition lawmaker Maria del Carmen Alva told reporters on Tuesday.

López Obrador has always said that his government prioritizes non-intervention in the internal affairs of other nations, but he has deviated from that principle when it comes to supposed ideological allies in Latin America.

Castillo will remain in pre-trial detention for 18 months after a judicial panel approved the request for an extension from prosecutors as they investigate charges of rebellion and conspiracy against the former rural teacher who won a close election last year under the banner of the Marxist Festa. Free from Peru.

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