MEXICO CITY – Mexico ended a decades-long tradition of warm relations with Fidel Castro's government when it recalled its ambassador to Cuba and sent the Cuban ambassador here home.
Both Mexico and Peru announced late Sunday that they were recalling their ambassadors from the communist-run island as a result of what they called unacceptable meddling in their internal affairs by Castro's administration.
But the government of Mexican President Vicente Fox (search) went two steps further, asking Cuban Ambassador Jorge Bolanos (search) to leave and declaring the Cuban Embassy's political affairs adviser, Orlando Silva, a "persona non grata."
Silva left early Monday, while Bolanos said he would board a flight bound for Havana on Tuesday.
The diplomatic actions by Mexico and Peru stopped short of severing diplomatic relations completely, but reduced bilateral ties to the level of charges d'affaires.
The United States applauded Mexico and Peru. In Washington on Monday, Secretary of State Colin Powell described as "outrageous" Castro's charges against the two countries.
This country said its decision followed Cuba's remarks on a scandal gripping the government of Mexico City, and Castro's public criticism of various Mexican foreign policy decisions, including the government's support for a U.N. resolution criticizing Cuba's human rights record.
It also cited unauthorized activities by visiting Cuban Communist Party members who failed to notify Mexican officials of their presence.
"We can't allow ourselves to be treated, under any circumstances, like we were treated by Castro in his declarations against the Mexican government and [President Fox]," Interior Secretary Santiago Creel said Monday.
Mexico's decision prompted Cuba to expel the aide of a man at the center of the Mexico City political scandal.
Antonio Martinez Ocampo (search) arrived in the capital late Monday and Cuba said he had been deported because his presence "could cause serious damage to our country," though he had broken no Cuban laws.
Martinez Ocampo had traveled to Cuba with businessman Carlos Ahumada (search), who was arrested and eventually deported to Mexico to face corruption charges last week. Ahumada filmed himself making large payments to Mexico City officials and activists in the city's governing Democratic Revolution Party.
Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (search) has accused officials in Fox's government of conspiring with Ahumada to create a scandal that would damage his chances to seek Mexico's presidency in 2006. The government has denied the allegations.
Fox's government last week protested Cuba's statement that Ahumada had confirmed he had been involved in a political plot.
Mexico's traditional foreign policy has been largely supportive of Castro and Mexico City's moves to distance itself from Cuba prompted a massive protest in Mexico City.
Thousands of people, many waving Cuban flags and hand-scrawled, pro-Castro signs, marched from the Angel of Independence monument to the presidential resident of Los Pinos, clogging major throughways before and during rush hour.
Pedro Joaquin Coldwell, who served as Mexico's ambassador to Cuba from 1998-2000, said Mexico's decision marked a turning point in its relationship with Cuba and the United States.
"It is almost impossible to disassociate the Cuba-Mexico relationship from that of Mexico with the United States and that of Cuba with the United States," he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
Coldwell predicted it would be extremely difficult to mend relations between Mexico and Castro's government, "but at least we can hope that they don't deteriorate more, to the point of breaking."