Mexico City Will Remove 'Dictator' Statue

PHOTO: Azerbaijan Dictator statue angers Mexico City residents

A colossal statue of an Eastern European strongman has graced one of Mexico City's most important avenues since August of last year, angering or bewildering anyone who has bothered to look into its background.

The monument depicts Heydar Aliyev, a former president of the oil-rich nation of Azerbaijan, who is accused of silencing the local press, profiting from mafia ties and enforcing a cult of personality in the former Soviet republic.

See Also: 'Dictator' Statue Angers Mexico City Residents

After several protests by local neighbors -- and a healthy dose of media coverage -- Mexico City officials have agreed to remove the statue from its current site on Mexico City's Reforma Avenue, saying through a press release issued Monday, that they will discuss an "alternate location" for the statue with the embassy of Azerbaijan.

The Aliyev depiction, nicknamed the "dictator" statue by locals, sits on the edge of a football-field sized park that was spruced up and re-landscaped with a $5 million donation from the embassy of Azerbaijan.

After controversy arose over the statue last year, members of the committee in charge of overseeing the park's refurbishing said that they had been informed that a statue of a former Azerbaijani president would be placed in the park but added that they had not been given any information on this man's questionable human rights record.

Committee members also said that they tried to stop the project once they learned about Heydar Aliyev's history, but were ignored by Mayor Marcelo Ebrard, who had already signed the deal to refurbish the park.

Officials from Mexico City's new government -- which took over from Ebrard's administration in December -- have openly criticized the statue, with the city's chief of international relations, Cauhtemoc Cardenas, saying that this monument "does not honor Mexico City."

But it is worth noting that the statue of President Aliyev was part of a broader initiative put in place by the previous mayor of Mexico City to find partners to develop and spruce up green spaces around the city.

The park in which the Aliyev statue sits is now called the "Mexico-Azerbaijan Friendship Park." Along its neat rows of flowers and pines, you will find a snack shop called café Baku, in honor of Azerbaijan's capital city.

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