MEXICO CITY – Mexico offered Fidel Castro's government an olive branch Tuesday, even as it defended a decision to scale back ties with the communist-run island and sent Cuba's ambassador packing.
Also on Tuesday, Honduras and Nicaragua publicly criticized Cuba in what has become a growing regional outspokenness against Castro.
As Cuban Ambassador Jorge Bolanos (search) returned home, Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Ernesto Derbez (search) sent a letter to Cuba suggesting officials from both countries work together to improve their strained relationship.
Derbez sent the diplomatic "with the clear aim of getting relations between Mexico and Cuba back on track, at least in diplomatic terms," he wrote to his Cuban counterpart, Felipe Perez Roque (search). "I declare my absolute believe that by re-establishing trust and dialogue between the two of us we can arrive at a relationship equal to our mutual needs."
Since announcing it was sending Cuba's ambassador home, Mexico has been quick to clarify it wasn't breaking off diplomatic relations completely. Derbez said his letter was the first step toward improving things.
Mexico announced late Sunday that it was recalling its ambassador, Roberta Lajous, from Cuba and giving Bolanos 48 hours to leave the country after what it said was Cuba's inappropriate meddling in its affairs.
Peru also recalled its ambassador to Cuba late Sunday after Castro insulted President Alejandro Toledo and harshly rebuked the South American country for its support of a U.N. resolution critical of Cuba's human rights record.
Fox made his first public comments referring to the conflict, although he didn't mention the issue directly.
In a morning speech to a labor union, the president said Mexico "will continue to have as our guide the constitutional mandate of monitoring and ensuring fulfillment of the law."
"We defend Mexico's sovereignty and dignity in whatever forum and everywhere in the world," he said, to loud applause and cries of "Mexico! Mexico!" from the audience.
Mexico said the decision to scale back relations was based on Castro's ongoing criticism of Mexico's foreign policy, including its support for the U.N. resolution; Cuba's comments about a political scandal in Mexico; and the alleged unauthorized activities of Cuban Communist Party members in Mexico.
Like Mexico, Peru stopped short of severing diplomatic relations completely with Cuba, choosing instead to simply reduce bilateral ties to the level of charges d'affaires.
Honduras, the sponsor of this year's U.S.-backed resolution, restored ties with Cuba in 2002, but never appointed an ambassador. On Tuesday, President Ricardo Maduro told The Associated Press in an interview that "for the moment" he would not do so.
Maduro also told the AP that he had denied a request from Cuba to support a separate U.N. resolution asking for an investigation into prisoner treatment at Guantanamo Bay.
"If Cuba didn't comply with a U.N. resolution then they can't make a similar request," the president said. "And Cuba lacks the standing to make such a proposal."
Cuba has called Honduras and other Latin American nations that supported the human rights resolution "toadies" of the United States. Other supporters included Chile, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and Guatemala.
Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Norman Caldera, meanwhile, said his country will file a formal complaint with the Cuban government after Castro criticized the country for sending troops to Iraq.