Mexico City authorities have removed a much-derided statue of the late leader of Azerbaijan from a park where it had stood for almost half a year at a prominent spot along the city's main boulevard.
The city had struggled for months to find a decorous way to address a wave of criticism about the monument to Geidar Aliyev, a former Communist Party boss who died in 2003.
In the end, the city sent police and workers into the park in the pre-dawn darkness to loosen the life-size, seated bronze statue from its marble plinth, swathe it in protective wrapping and haul it away.
The city government said it was holding the statue in safe keeping and was still in talks with the Embassy of Azerbaijan about where to put it. Local media showed photos of the statue being hauled on a flat-bed truck to a government warehouse in an unfashionable district of the city.
The early-morning removal represented a sharp change of fortunes for the statue, which since August had gazed serenely from a flowery corner of Chapultepec Park, with a marble map of Azerbaijan at its back.
City officials had previously suggested the statue might be moved to an indoor setting, perhaps in some sort of Azerbaijani cultural centre. But the city apparently cannot just hide the statue away, given the five million dollars Azerbaijan has paid to restore the park, erect the monument and other public works.
The Azerbaijani Embassy suggested in a statement in October that removing the statue could affect diplomatic relations between the former Soviet satellite and Mexico. It said the city government had signed an agreement stipulating the monument should be allowed to remain in the spot for 99 years.
The city government said it "reiterates its great respect for the Azerbaijani people, their culture and traditions, and repeats that it is open to dialogue with their embassy".
Some Mexico City residents had complained about the homage to Aliyev, noting his authoritarian record. The late leader had been criticized for repressing opponents and critics in his oil-rich Caspian Sea nation.
Mexican activist and writer Homero Aridjis, who helped lead opposition to the statue, said: "Mexico doesn't need to import, in exchange for money, tyrants from other countries, nor make others conflicts our own. We already have enough of our own problems."