Peru's Congress deems Mexican leader unwelcome, regional split deepens

FILE PHOTO: Demonstrators stand outside the Mexican embassy after Mexico's Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said that Mexico has granted asylum to the family of former Peruvian President Pedro Castillo, in Lima, Peru December 20, 2022. REUTERS/Liz Tasa

LIMA (Reuters) - Lawmakers in Peru voted on Thursday to declare Mexico's leftist president unwelcome in the South American country, citing what they described as his meddling in Peru's internal affairs and marking a deepening diplomatic split in the region.

The declaration of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador as "persona non grata" in Peru makes him the second Latin American leader to be slapped with this status.

Peru's right-wing dominated Congress approved the largely symbolic declaration by a vote of 65 in favor and 40 against, after Lopez Obrador derided Peru's President Dina Boluarte as an illegitimate "usurper" after her predecessor, Pedro Castillo, was ousted late last year.

Boluarte has also refusal to hand over to the Mexican leader the rotating presidency of the Pacific Alliance trade bloc.

In February, lawmakers took the same action against Lopez Obrador's fellow leftist in Colombia, President Gustavo Petro, for similar criticisms of Boluarte taking office and the handling of the country's political crisis and subsequent social unrest.

Bolivia's leftist former President Evo Morales has likewise joined in on the criticism, and has also been deemed persona non grata by Peru's Congress.

Boluarte was sworn in hours after Castillo was removed from office and swiftly arrested, following his attempt to dissolve Congress and rule by decree. Raucous protests broke out and dozens were killed.

Rights groups have accused police and soldiers of using excessive force, and earlier on Thursday Amnesty International suggested that the indigenous backgrounds of most of those killed in protests suggested a racial bias.

Boluarte has defended security forces while accusing some protesters of acting violently, but she is also under investigation by prosecutors for her role in the killings.

Lopez Obrador, who often rails against those he sees meddling in Mexico's internal affairs, said earlier this week he would be "proud" if Peruvian lawmakers took such action against him.

(Reporting by Marco Aquino; Writing by Sarah Morland; Editing by David Alire Garcia and Alistair Bell)

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