Lungu expels Cuban envoy for gracing Socialist Party launch

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President Edgar Lungu has expelled Cuban Ambassador to Zambia Nelson Pages Vilas for attending the launch of the Socialist Party on Saturday.

Presidential spokesperson Amos Chanda has told a media briefing today that President Lungu has decided to ask the Cuban government to recall Vilas for openly declaring his support for the opposition party.

In what he described as a revolutionary greeting, the Ambassador said his government was wishing the Socialist Party in Zambia all the best.

But Chanda stated Ambassador Vilas has breached diplomatic ethics, practice and standards by his action.

He said it was a clear red light for Ambassador Vilas, who was only accredited last week, to declare his support for the opposition party led by veteran journalist Fred M’membe.

“The President has directed that the Cuban Ambassador be recalled, the Foreign Affairs Ministry must make all procedures today to start the process of the recall of the Cuban Ambassador. That is, the sending state must recall the Cuban Ambassador for behavior unbecoming of a diplomat. This relates to his involvement in partisan politics which is totally in contravention of established diplomatic practice,” Chanda said.

“The President has instructed the permanent secretary foreign affairs to call in the ambassador and inform him of this decision. It is quite extraordinary that of all people, the Cuban Ambassador himself knows that in Cuba, the opposition is not just resented, it is totally absent. You would expect that the Cuban ambassador would know that diplomatic practice prohibits that kind of behavior. An ambassador ought to have known that that is a clear red line. So a decision has been made for the Zambian government to request the Cuban government to recall their ambassador for behavior that is contrary to that which is expected of a diplomat. Conduct unbecoming of a diplomat is the official reason for which the Zambian government, particularly the president has taken this decision.”

Chanda, however, said the Cuban Mission would continue to exist as President Lungu was only interested in removing Ambassador Vilas for breaching international diplomatic practice.

In 2011 the USA Ambassador to Zambia Mark Storella graced the then opposition Patriotic Front (PF) Conference in Kabwe.

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