Workers with cranes have taken down a controversial statue of Christopher Columbus in Argentina's capital for restoration.

The engineer in charge of the operation, Juan Arriegue, says the 38-ton, 6-meter-high (20-foot-high) statue of the Italian explorer will be stored beneath its pedestal behind the Government House.

Arriegue told the newspaper La Nacion that the statue "will not be moved to another location, we are only going to submit it to a restoration process."

The statue has become a political flashpoint between the leftist government of President Cristina Fernandez and conservative Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri.

Fernandez's government sought to have the statue moved and replaced by a statue of guerrilla leader Juana Azurduy donated by Bolivia.

But both Argentina's Italian community and officials in Buenos Aires said the statue belonged to the city not the federal government.

A court issued an injunction temporarily blocking its transfer to another location.

The statue was taken down on Saturday.