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Mexicans cart away statue of late Azerbaijan leader

January 26, 2013|By Richard Fausset
  • A life-size bronze statue of late Azerbaijan President Heydar Aliyev in Mexico City, seen in October. Workers removed the much-derided statue in the predawn darkness of Saturday.
A life-size bronze statue of late Azerbaijan President Heydar Aliyev in… (Eduardo Verdugo / Associated…)

MEXICO CITY — Adios, Heydar Aliyev, late strongman of distant Azerbaijan.

Now that your statue has been hauled away from the Paseo de La Reforma, the Mexican capital’s grand boulevard, where will Mexicans go now when they want to meditate on your legacy of KGB membership, fraudulent elections and human rights violations?

Early Saturday, in the darkness sometime after midnight, Mexico City officials wrapped up the bronze statue of Aliyev, the ruler of Azerbaijan from 1993 to 2003, and ferried it away on a truck. The move was an effort to placate the many Mexicans who wondered why the thing had been installed in the heart of their great city in the first place.

As the Times’ Tracy Wilkinson reported, the statue had been inaugurated in August. The government of Azerbaijan, an oil-rich former Soviet republic, paid a hefty sum for the land to create the little park where the statue was located.

For many Mexico City residents, the response, understandably, was, "Heydar who"? For others, it was an affront. One community activist compared it to putting a statue of Idi Amin on the Washington Mall.

According to the newspaper Milenio, the statue was sent to a warehouse for the time being, but the city government will be working with the Azerbaijani delegation in Mexico to find a different spot to display the work. [Link in Spanish]

Despite Aliyev’s many flaws — in one diplomatic cable on the WikiLeaks website, a U.S. ambassador compared his family to the Corleones of "The Godfather" fame — he was viewed as an ally by the administration of George W. Bush, which was pleased to have a secular, pro-Western leader in a strategically important Muslim nation.

Statue-rich Mexico City, meanwhile, still offers a varied panoply of likenesses of controversial historical figures for residents to complain about. Anti-colonialists can always picket the statue of Winston Churchill. Critics of socialism are welcome to have at the nearby statue of former Yugoslavian President Josip Broz Tito.

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