On October 31, Bolivia was the first American nation to announce that it was severing diplomatic relations with Israel. Announcing the decision before the General Assembly of the United Nations, its spokesperson said that Israel “is disrespectful of lives, of peoples, of international and humanitarian law.”
That same day, President Gustavo Petro announced that he was recalling Colombia’s ambassador to Israel. He had written,“We do not support genocides.”
The stance of Bolivia and Colombia, both part of Latin America’s “second wave” of leftist governments, were one thing. But then President Gabriel Boric — decidedly more of a moderate, especially in foreign affairs — announced that Chile, too, was recalling its ambassador. He was succinct in a tweet: “Nothing justifies the barbarity in Gaza. Nothing.”
Then on November 3, Honduras announced that it, too, was recalling its ambassador. And Argentina stated, “Nothing justifies the violation of international humanitarian law.” Brazil’s president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva echoed the cry heard at marches up and down the region: “This isn’t a war; it’s a genocide.”
México also weighed in. After criticizing as "unacceptable" the United States veto of a Security Council resolution that would have called for a humanitarian pause for the entry of vital supplies to Gaza, Mexico’s Alicia Buenrostro, its United Nations representative, said Israel’s indiscriminate attacks on civilians “could constitute war crimes.”
Why the Support for Palestine?
Sympathy for the Palestinian cause in Latin America can be explained by two fundamental reasons: a historical sympathy for oppressed and colonized peoples, and Israel’s own history in the region.
Israel has supported a laundry list of the worst names in recent Latin American history, including Rafael Trujillo, Augusto Pinochet, Luis García Meza, Efraín Ríos Montt, Anastasio Somoza, and Jorge Rafael Videla. It trained, armed, and provided intelligence to the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile; it kept arms flowing to Nicaragua and El Salvador during arms embargoes; it provided advanced American weaponry to Honduras. It provided military aid to Costa Rican police, to the military junta in Argentina, to right-wing paramilitaries in Columbia, and assisted in the "“Palestiniazation of the Maya population in Guatemala. With memories of dictatorships and state-sponsored massacres still fresh in the region, Israel’s role is not forgotten or forgiven.
Where’s the Democracy?
It is considered axiomatic by world elites that Western democracies are superior to Latin American ones. But lo and behold, it turns out that these “inferior” democracies are doing a much better job of reflecting citizen views. In the United States, a bipartisan majority of 66 percent agrees that its government should call for a cease-fire, but barely 4 percent of the House of Representatives concurs.
The UK is debating whether waving a Palestinian flag is a criminal offense, the French Senate is considering a bill to make insulting the state of Israel a crime, and pro-Palestinian protests are being criminalized and broken up in France and Germany.
For at a critical moment in the history of this century, it is Latin America — and not the United Nations, European Union, or any other international organization that purports to act in the interests of peace — that is taking the humanitarian lead on the world stage.