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HAVANA, Cuba, Mon. May 10, 2021 (Reuters) – Cuban authorities have called Colombia’s ambassador to protest the expulsion of one of its diplomats from the Andean country amid a wave of violent protests against its right-wing government.

Colombia’s foreign ministry had on Thursday accused Omar Rafael GarcĂ­a Lazo, the first secretary of Cuba’s embassy in Bogota, of breaching the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations, without adding further details.

Cuba has faced charges of fomenting anti-government protests in recent years by conservative governments in Ecuador and Bolivia allied with the former U.S. Trump administration which vowed to end socialism in Latin America.

“The unjustified action aims to deviate the attention of the international community and Colombian society away from the violent repression of demonstrations by the military and police forces that has killed dozens and injured hundreds,” the Cuban foreign ministry said on Twitter.

Cuban state media have given ample coverage to the protests in Colombia that began last week in opposition to a now-cancelled tax reform plan which would have raised sales taxes.

Demonstrators have since broadened their demands to include government action to tackle poverty, police violence and inequality in the health and education systems.

Cuban commentators have in particular criticized the government for failing to curb police violence.

Advocacy group Human Rights Watch has reports of 36 deaths and called police violence “alarming.”

The protests come as the one-party Cuban state is dealing with a small but unusual wave of dissent at home, with members and allies of a dissident artists collective in Havana protesting against restrictions on civil liberties, economic crisis and growing inequality.

Government critics say it should address human rights issues at home.

(Reporting by Nelson Acosta and Sarah Marsh in Havana; Additional Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb in Bogota, Editing by William Maclean)

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