31 Jul 2014

Gaza war prompts Latin America to break ties with Israel

Latin America Correspondent

While the US and UK stand by Israel over its military offensive in Gaza, governments across Latin America have moved to cut their links.

Brazilian President Dilma Roussef and Bolivia's Evo Morales (Getty Images)

In a series of coordinated diplomatic and financial measures, Latin America is making a stand, heavily criticising Israel and cutting ties with the Jewish state, writes Channel 4 News reporter Guillermo Galdos.

El Salvador, Chile, Peru, Brazil and Ecuador have all recalled their ambassadors, while Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Uruguay and Paraguay have suspended the Free Trade Agreement talks, demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

In a joint statement they called for an end to the “disproportionate use of force by the Israeli army in the Gaza Strip which in the majority affects civilians, including children and women.”

‘Terrorist state’

Chile – with the largest Palestinian Arab population outside of the Middle East – was the first to cut ties. It is no small gesture, as the country has deep economic and military connections with Israel.

And Bolivian President Evo Morales (pictured, above right) followed with a feisty speech on Wednesday – accusing Israel of being a “terrorist state” and has said that from now on Israelis would need a visa to visit his country.

Israel doesn’t guarantee the principle of respect for live, and the basic right to live in harmony and peace. Evo Morales, Bolivian president

“Israel doesn’t guarantee the principle of respect for life, and the basic right to live in harmony and peace in the international community,” he said.

Israel’s foreign ministry said it was disappointed with the recalling of ambassadors – and that such actions only encourage Hamas “a group recognised as a terror organisation by many countries around the world”.

‘Diplomatic dwarf’

But the foreign ministry also made light of the measures, calling Brazil a “diplomatic dwarf”, and even joked about their semifinal loss in this summer’s World Cup.

President Dilma Rouseff (pictured, above left) responded by saying: “Brazil was the first country to recognise Israel. Brazil is a friend to Israel… but there is a massacre ongoing in the Gaza Strip.”

Uruguay and Argentina, which have large Jewish communities, have not followed suit, keeping their ambassadors in Israel. Colombia and Mexico are also maintaining diplomatic relations.

But the stand by many in Latin America is being seen as a departure – and is being hailed here by many who are proud that the region is taking a stand.