February 15, 2013
by Ana Arana
Until a couple of months ago, few in Mexico City knew who Heydar Aliyev was, and even fewer of those were aware that a marble and bronze statue erected in his honour sat smack in the middle of Reforma Avenue, one of Mexico’s most recognised streets. A plaque standing before the statue detailed the former president of Azerbaijan’s “loyalty to the universal ideals of world peace”. But the presence of the dead dictator sparked controversy in Mexico City.
The conflict over how Mexico City accepted $5 million dollars from Azerbaijan to build the statue, as well as a park, has been brewing since November. The agreement to build the statue was reached by the leftist government of the Partido de la Revolucion Democratica (PRD) after some of its representatives traveled to Azerbaijan in an all expenses paid junket the previous year.
It wasn’t until the statue was up that there were rumblings from other European ambassadors. Aliyev’s not so clean past was revealed in the local press, including the fact that he had probably engaged in pogroms against Armenian citizens.
Mexicans began to consider whether they should bring down the statue. Initially the Azerbaijan ambassador, Ilgar Mukhtárov, threatened to break off relations if the statue was removed. The Christmas holidays slowed down the conflict. But finally, in late January, the Azerbaijan embassy and city officials agreed to move the statue to another more suitable place in Mexico City — a storage area.