Azerbaijan defends Mexico monument to ex-leader

View photos
A life-size bronze statue of late Azerbaijan president Geidar Aliev is seen on Mexico City's main boulevard, Reforma Avenue, Monday, Oct. 1, 2012. Mexican protesters say that a man who ruled such a far-away land with such a heavy hand shouldn't be on a boulevard decorated with statues to Mexican and foreign heroes. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The Caucasus republic of Azerbaijan is defending a multimillion-dollar renovation of Mexican parks and a monument to late president Geidar Aliyev that it paid for, saying Mexico is a natural choice to commemorate their leader.

Azerbaijan's ambassador says that Mexico was among the first countries to recognize Azerbaijan after the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union. Azerbaijan paid the entire cost of renovating a park and a plaza, including a statue of Aliyev in one of the parks.

A few protesters say the statue is out of place, but Azerbaijan Ambassador to Mexico Ilgar Mukhtarov says relations with Mexico are growing stronger.

Ilgar Mukhtarov said Tuesday that Mexicans still have fond memories of Aliyev's 1982 visit to Mexico, and says the parks were intended to draw the two countries closer.