Edited by Diego Ore and Marco Aquino
MEXICO CITY/LIMA (RockedBuzz via Reuters) – Peru declared Mexico’s ambassador in Lima a “persona non grata” and ordered him to leave the country on Tuesday, Peru’s foreign minister said amid the latest escalation of tensions between the two nations after Peru ousted Pedro Castillo as president.
The abrupt order, a severe measure in the world of diplomacy, gives Mexico’s envoy to the South American country just 72 hours to get out.
The Peruvian government decision came hours after Mexico’s top diplomat announced that his country had granted asylum to the family of Castillo, who faces charges of rebelling from behind bars after attempting what critics have called a coup of state on 7 December.
Peru’s foreign ministry posted on social media that the expulsion of Mexican ambassador Pablo Monroy was due to “repeated statements by that country’s highest authorities regarding the political situation in Peru,” a thinly veiled reference to support that the president of Mexico offered fellow leftist Castillo from his ousting with an overwhelming vote of lawmakers and his subsequent arrest.
Mexico’s foreign minister took to Twitter on Tuesday evening to criticize Monroy’s expulsion, deriding it as “unjustified and reprehensible”.
Last week, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador sharply criticized the removal of Castillo as undemocratic, noting that he continues to recognize Castillo as Peru’s legitimate 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 staying inside the Mexican embassy in Lima.
Ana Cecilia Gervasi, Peru’s foreign minister, announced later 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, Mexico’s government, along with left-led Argentina, Bolivia and Colombia, issued a joint statement declaring Castillo a victim of “undemocratic harassment.”
Days later, the week-long government of President Dina Boluarte, who had previously served as Castillo’s vice president, summoned Peru’s ambassadors home for consultations over what she derided as unacceptable interference in the country’s internal affairs.
Separately on Tuesday, a critical first step in Boluarte’s push for a snap election was approved by lawmakers, with 93 in favor and just 30 against. The proposal would bring the election forward to April 2024, two years ahead of the election currently scheduled for 2026.
Shortly after his attempt to dissolve Congress, Castillo himself tried to flee to the Mexican embassy, but was arrested 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 being investigated for alleged involvement in a money laundering ring that may also involve Castillo.
“Mexico is protecting the corrupt,” Peruvian opposition lawmaker Maria del Carmen Alva told reporters on Tuesday.
Lopez Obrador has often said that his government prioritizes non-intervention in the internal affairs of other nations, but has deviated from that principle when dealing with alleged ideological allies in Latin America.
Castillo will be remanded in custody for 18 months, after a judicial panel approved prosecutors’ request for an extension as they investigate allegations of rebellion and conspiracy against the former rural teacher who won an election last year close up under the banner of the Marxist Free Peru Party.
(Reporting by Diego Ore in Mexico City and Marco Aquino in Peru; Screenplay by Kylie Madry; Editing by Leslie Adler and Stephen Coates)