Relations Sour Between US and Colombia Over Colombian President Petro’s Refusal to Condemn Hamas

“The only way for Palestinian children to sleep in peace is for Israeli children to sleep in peace. The only way for Israeli children to sleep in peace is for Palestinian children to sleep in peace. War will never achieve this.”

When the former Guerrilla fighter Gustavo Petro came to office in June 2022, becoming the country’s first left-wing president since Colombia won independence in 1819, it was clear he would have to tread very carefully in his relations with Washington, especially given all the US military bases on Colombian soil. Today, sixteen months after his election, Petro faces his first major diplomatic standoff, not only with Washington but also Tel Aviv — all the result of his refusal, so far, to condemn Hamas’ ruthless attack against Israeli citizens on Sunday.

Instead, Petro, a voracious poster on X/Twitter, wrote the following on the social media platform:

War has broken out again between Israel and Palestinian Gaza. In my speech at the United Nations I showed how world power treated the Russian occupation of Ukraine in one way and the Israeli occupation of Palestine in another, very different way…

From a very young age I studied the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and I know of the immense injustice that the Palestinian people have suffered since 1948. Just as I know about the immense injustice that the Jewish people suffered at the hands of the Nazis in Europe since 1933.

If I had lived in Germany in ’33 I would have fought on the side of the Jews and if I had lived in Palestine in 1948 I would have fought on the Palestinian side.

Now the neo-Nazis want the destruction of the Palestinian people, freedom and culture. Now we democrats and progressives want peace to prevail and the Israeli and Palestinian people to be free.

“Unfortunate Messages”

Petro has also likened Gaza to Auschwitz as well as to the Warsaw Ghetto, which was destroyed by the German military after an uprising by Jews confined there. None of this, of course, has gone down well with the Israeli or US governments — or for that matter, opposition parties and much of the legacy media at home.

“They are very unfortunate messages,” said Israel’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Lior Haiat. “They demonstrate a lack of knowledge, not to say ignorance, and an enormous lack of respect. After the atrocities that we have seen from this barbaric attack, making the comparison that the president of Colombia made, I am sorry to say, but it is a comparison that has no basis.”

In an interview with the Colombian newspaper SEMANA, Israel’s ambassador in Bogota, Gali Dagan, called on the Colombian Government to raise its voice forcefully against terrorism.

“It is very difficult to find the common denominator between these two cases [of Ukraine and Palestine]. We hope that a country friendly to Israel will strongly and clearly condemn the terrorist attack against innocent civilians in the State of Israel.

Shortly after the attack on Saturday, Colombia’s Foreign Ministry did release a statement strongly condemning “terrorism and attacks against the civilian population.” But by the next day, the statement had been replaced by one that no longer mentioned the word “terrorism” or referred to Hamas by name.

Among the dozens of messages Petro has published or shared on Twitter/X since Sunday was a photo montage of some of the Palestinian children who have perished under Israeli occupation, alongside the following text (translated by yours truly):

The only way for Palestinian children to sleep in peace is for Israeli children to sleep in peace.

The only way for Israeli children to sleep in peace is for Palestinian children to sleep in peace.

War will never achieve this, it can only be achieved by a peace agreement that respects international legality and the right of the two peoples to exist free.

These are photos of Palestinian children murdered by the illegal occupation of their land.

To give the message maximum exposure, Petro has pinned it right at the top of his twitter profile. He also posted this graph showing the glaring disparity between Palestinian and Israeli deaths over the past 15 years of conflict:


Since then Petro has maintained a running commentary on developments in Israel and Gaza, repeatedly calling for peace negotiations. On Monday, he responded to Israel’s Defence Minister Yoav Galant’s call for a total siege and blockade of Gaza and his description of Palestinians as “human animals” by warning:

“This is what the Nazis said about the Jews. Democratic peoples cannot allow Nazism to re-establish itself in international politics. Israelis and Palestinians are human beings subject to international law. This hate speech if it continues will only bring a holocaust.”

On Thursday, Petro’s remarks finally elicited an official response from the US government on Thursday.

“We strongly condemn President Petro’s statements and call on him to condemn Hamas, a designated terrorist organization, for its barbaric murder of Israeli men, women and children,” Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt of the office of the U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism (SEAS) said on Twitter/X.

This is probably no idle warning. After all, Colombia has been Washington’s most important client state and forward operating base in South America since at least the ’90s. In 2010, Bolivia’s then-President Evo Morales called Colombia “an Israel in South America.” Colombia’s military has close ties not just with the US, largely as a result of Washington’s funding of Plan Colombia, but also Israel, which trains Colombian soldiers and furnishes them with weapons and security tech.

In 2017, Colombia became one of NATO’s global partners, and the Alliance’s first Latin American partner. Five years later, it was designated by the Biden Administration as one of the US’s 18 Major Non-Nato Allies (MNNAs). The five original MNNAs, established in 1987, were Australia, Egypt, Japan, South Korea and Israel.

Colombia also has seven formal US military bases on its soil and allegedly dozens of so-called “quasi-bases” — which differ from formal bases in no other way than that they lack a formal lease agreement for use of facilities — scattered around the country, particularly in areas rich in mineral resources and/or close to Colombia’s border with Venezuela, according to Schools of America Watch. As if that were not enough of a threat, the US is also amassing troops in neighbouring Ecuador and Peru.

Mixed Messages

Colombia is not the only Latin American country to have (so far) refused to condemn Hamas’ actions. Cuba, which has not had diplomatic relations with Israel since 1973, the year of the Yom Kippur War, called the current conflict “a consequence of 75 years of permanent violation of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and Israel’s aggressive and expansionist policies.” The government of Bolivia expressed “deep concern” about “violent events” in the “Gaza Strip between Israel and Palestine” while Venezuela’s government called for “genuine negotiations” between Israel and Palestine without expressly condemning the attacks.

Most other countries in the region, including Mexico and Brazil, did condemn the attacks, though few, with the notable exception of Nayib Bukele’s government in El Salvador, have expressed support for Israel’s unbridled retaliation. Some refused to mention the word “terrorism” or Hamas by name. As with the war in Ukraine, most countries seem to want to maintain some degree of neutrality on the issue.

Mexico’s Foreign Ministry, for example, said it “unequivocally condemns the unacceptable attacks against the people of Israel on October 7 by Hamas and other Palestinian organizations in Gaza… No cause justifies the use of terrorism… Mexico recognizes Israel’s right to legitimate self-defense—which must be governed by the conditions established in international law—while condemning the use of force, regardless of which side uses it, especially when the targets are civilians, in clear violation of international humanitarian law.”

The statement condemn both Hamas and the use of terrorism in general, but it also condemns “the use of force” in general, “regardless of which side uses it, especially when the targets are civilians,” and that was enough to draw Israel’s ire. The Israeli Embassy in Mexico expressed its “dissatisfaction” with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s statements in relation to the events in Israel and “deeply regretted that the Government of Mexico has not adopted a more energetic and determined position in the face of this situation.” It also noted that “maintaining a neutral position rather than taking sides ultimately means endorsing and supporting terrorism.”

In other words, despite unequivocally condemning the attacks and acts of terrorism in general, the Mexico government did not go far enough. In response, AMLO said the following:

The Israeli ambassador in Mexico says that she does not agree with our position, she has every right to say so, to express it, because we are free, we respect the Government of Israel and much more so the people of Israel, but we do not want war. We do not want violence. We are pacifists and we don’t want any human being of any nationality to lose their life, whether Israeli or Palestinian. We want the most important human right to be guaranteed, which is the right to life.

Brazil’s government was slightly more forceful in its condemnation and even projected the Israeli flag on the dome of the country’s National Congress in solidarity with the victims. The country is currently UN Security Council President and is leading efforts to negotiate a ceasefire to the conflict, so far to little avail.

“There is no justification for resorting to violence, especially against civilians,” the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement. “The Brazilian Government urges all parties to exercise maximum restraint in order to avoid escalating the situation.” Brazilian President Luiz Inacio “Lula” Da Silva expressed his “rejection of terrorism in any of its forms” and called for a two-state solution.

But like Mexico, Brazil’s Foreign Ministry did not use the word “terrorism” or refer to Hamas by name in its statement, to the consternation of the Israeli Embassy. “One of the things we said to the Foreign Minister is that there is no more serious example of terrorism,” said the Israeli ambassador. “It is the personification of terrorism. And the lack of this word in the Ministry’s statement is… I can’t speak against the government, but it betrays a lack, at least, of sensitivity.”

The US presumably feels the same and will be doing everything it can to bring LatAm countries into line. In its joint declaration with the governments of France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom, the Biden Administration told the world:

“We make clear that the terrorist actions of Hamas have no justification, no legitimacy, and must be universally condemned.”

But will the world listen? After all, the US and the EU do not have the strategic influence or soft power they once had, having squandered much of it on the costly wars they have waged and the brutal sanctions they have liberally imposed. For the past 20 months, the US and its NATO allies have been desperately trying to persuade Latin American countries to endorse their sanctions against Russia as well as furnish Ukraine with Russian-made weapons, to no avail.

At a recent summit in Brussels between the EU and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), Latin American leaders rebuffed EU requests for Zelensky to attend as well as include in the final summit declaration a paragraph condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It was a PR disaster for Brussels. In his closing statement at the Summit of the Peoples, a parallel event taking place in Brussels, Petro pilloried the EU’s obsession with the war in Ukraine, which he described as “a far-removed issue” for Latin America and the Caribbean:

“The EU has basically focused on a topic that was of fundamental interest to itself, but which is far-removed for us: the war in Ukraine. [It wanted] to point to the construction of a block in the world, Latin America and the European Union, coalescing around Zelensky and support for a political, economic and military strategy, obviously. That was its priority.”

Now the priority of the collective West is to coalesce support around blanket condemnation of Hamas’ hideous war crime while giving carte blanche to Israel to commit a far larger one — one that has so far entailed cutting off all basic services and supplies to Gaza and levelling large parts of the enclave, resulting in the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of others.

The next move in Israel’s grotesque game plan, it seems, is to corral around 1.1 million people into the southern half of the enclave in preparation for what is likely to be a substantial ground offensive — with “devastating humanitarian consequences”, says the UN. And the ostensible liberal democracies of the West are fully on board while many are in the process of outlawing pro-Palestinian demonstrations.

A quick look at the map below shows just how out of synch the collective West is with Latin America — and for that matter, the rest of the world — on the Israel-Palestine question, and indeed has been for years. As of December 31 2019, every country in Latin America except Panama, Mexico and a few island states had recognised Palestine as a sovereign state. The same goes for 138 of the world’s 193 countries — representing over three-quarters of the global population.

Among the G20, nine countries had recognized Palestine as a state by the end of 2019. Seven of them are BRICS members, new and old (Argentina, Brazil, China, India,  Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and Turkey), the other two being Turkey and Indonesia. Ten G20 countries had not recognised Palestine (and still don’t). Six of them are NATO members (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States). Three of them are major non-NATO allies (Australia, South Korea and Japan). The other is Mexico.

But even that changed in June this year when Mexico’s AMLO government quietly reclassified the Palestinian Authority’s diplomatic mission in Mexico from special delegation to embassy, despite huge pressure from the US State Department.


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  1. divadab

    Good for President Petro! The sheer brutality and hypocrisy of the imperial regime is sickening. The people running the show in DC are insufferably arrogant, with all the stupidity of hubris informing their war crimes and filthy lies. The face of the empire is of demented bloodthirsty degenerates like Lindsay Graham and Joe Biden. It’s a disgrace; it’s an appalling insult to the citizens who pay for all this corruption and death.

    On a personal level, not much can be done, except – don’t buy their shit! Don’t watch teevee, don’t buy anything advertised on teevee, but be careful – the COVID plandemic was an object lesson in how fascism works on a social level – it is enforced by neighbors whose minds have been occupied by filthy lies and half-truths and they will come after anyone identified as “other”.

  2. The Rev Kev

    Starting to pick up a pattern which may be part of the Rules-Based Order here. For a long while now the Collective West countries have been running around and lecturing & finger-wagging at countries to make them condemn Russia and to support the Ukraine. It did not matter if you had a neutrality policy going back decades or even centuries, you were either with us or against us as George Bush so poetically put it. Well now we are seeing the same with Israel and it has been only a few days. Here Nick excellent post is illustrating how this is working out in South America in countries like Colombia and Mexico but a short while ago I saw another remarkable example on the other side of the world. Turkiye has put itslef forward as a host for negotiations and prisoner exchanges but the EU wing of the US thumped down but hard on them-

    ‘European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas has demanded that Türkiye either openly declare its support for NATO, the EU and the “ethos of the West,” or side with Russia and an assortment of Muslim states and militant groups.

    Speaking at an event in Brussels on Wednesday, Schinas weighed in on the recent violent flare-up between Israel and Palestinian fighters in Gaza, noting that all 27 EU member states supported Israel’s “right to defend itself” and denounced terrorism following a deadly Hamas attack last weekend.

    Addressing Türkiye, the official declared that the country must “choose which side of history it wants to be on,” suggesting it could not seek a middle ground between world powers or remain neutral.

    “[Türkiye will be] with us – the European Union, NATO, our values, the ethos of the West – or with Moscow, Tehran, Hamas, and Hezbollah,” Schinas said, as cited by Greek newspaper Ekathimerini, adding that “the answer needs to be clear.”’

    So putting it all together, it appears that the Collective West says that they will come to a decision on how certain countries are to treated and every other country on the planet had better fall in line – or else. So last year Russia, this year the Palestinians and next year the Chinese. Sounds like a plan.

    1. Carolinian

      I think your “pattern” is no coincidence but in fact illustrates how the widespread, unquestioning support of Israel among Western elites has become a means of “virtue washing” the far less benign urge by these rich countries to keep colonialism alive. In the little reported justification that Hamas issued for its action it explicitly said that it was acting against the last vestige of colonialism. And whether or not one agrees, it is becoming clearer that all these smaller countries that were themselves once colonies see it that way.

      Surely the real question, as the Helmer report the other day brought to light, is what Russia will do as a large country and China also. For they too are now favoring “multipolarity” and the end of the empire mentality by the West. All the squawking about how this resistance to Western dominance is somehow “immoral” is an intellectually pathetic but physically dangerous attempt to turn the tables. “Peace is dangerous” they cry. Dangerous for them they mean.

    2. digi_owl

      And what do the nations get in return? USA could go around dictating terms when it was the supplier of the world. But now they have effectively passed that crown to China, and it is starting to show.

      1. Feral Finster

        In the case of Colombia, I am sure that various US officials are dropping hints like dog treats to the US-trained Colombian military that they might want to step in to “Restore Democracy(tm)!”

  3. .Tom

    > Since then Petro has maintained a running commentary on developments in Israel and Gaza, repeatedly calling for peace negotiations.

    Might be useful if there were a live tracker of what national leaders are saying and categorizing them: calling for escalation of violence or calling for peace negotiation.

  4. Societal Illusions

    Curious there is only one correct, respectful, appropriate, and legitimate, justified, non-barbaric, intelligent and knowledgeable position and approach to take on this continued violence.

    And as any other sentiment, viewpoint, or attitude is unfortunate, ignorant, disrespectful, and only deserving of universal condemnation and only endorses and supports terrorism, it thus must be condemned.

    Utterly. Completely. Without reserve or ambiguity.

    Otherwise it is wrong.

    There is only one way to view this.

    1. Kouros

      Terrorism is bad, indeed. What is happening in Israel/Palestine is a war that started in 1948 and never ended, because Israel continues to attack and disposes Palestinians of their land and their rights.

      Thus, the attack on Israel cannot be called a terrorist attack, or not 100%. Hamas, which is also the government of Gaza, has also attacked military bases in Israel, which are legitimate targets in a war. Furthermore, the attack on Dresden by the USUK in WWII, a city with no industrial or military objectives was a 100% terrorist attack, against international rules of war. Because the population’s morale needed to be broken.

      So far Israel has only bombed civilian buildings in Gaza, and also destroyed the third oldest church in the world, which was in Gaza.

      1. caucus99percenter

        Correction: although it is true that much of what purports to be “fact checking” and “debunking” these days is itself a pack of lies, in this one case the debunking seems to be true:

        So far the Saint Porphyrius church in Gaza has NOT been destroyed.

        So far.

  5. Piotr Berman

    The Korea Times

    South Korea faces growing diplomatic pressure from Israel-Hamas conflict Posted : 2023-10-12 16:13Updated : 2023-10-13 14:49

    [photo] An Israeli artillery unit fires at an area along the border with Gaza in southern Israel, Wednesday. EPA-Yonhap
    Top US senator urges South Korea to support Israel
    By Lee Hyo-jin
    South Korea is finding itself in a difficult position as the war between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas escalates further. President Yoon Suk Yeol has condemned Hamas’ “indiscriminate” attacks, yet he has not openly expressed support for Israel, in what is viewed as a balancing act amid fears that the ongoing war may expand to a wider Middle East conflict.

    During a meeting between Yoon and a six-member U.S. bipartisan Senate delegation led by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer during the latter’s visit to Seoul, Wednesday, Schumer urged the South Korean government to stand with Washington in supporting Israel.
    So far, Korean president, from a conservative party, toed pro-American line quite closely. But not enough… Will he be lectured that he is ignorant, and fears of a wider conflict (impacting Korea directly and indirectly) are misguided?

  6. nippersdad

    It would have been helpful were the Israeli minister to tell us what the difference between the Warsaw Ghetto and the Gaza Strip are. From my ignorant perspective, it has long looked like Israel learned more from their Nazi persecutors about how to achieve lebensraum than they care to admit.

    1. Irrational

      Could not agree more.

      And: is it me or is the grey (gray!) part of the map stunningly close to the “international community” supporting Ukraine?

      Thanks to Nick for a great post.

  7. polar donkey

    From 2008 to 2020, almost 10 times as many Memphians were murdered as Israelis died in Israel-Palestinian conflict. Twice as many Palestinians died as murdered Memphians. I only mention this because it gives perspective on how our tolerances of violence vary. It is a sick, sad world.

  8. Ashu

    While there is no justification for what Israel is doing in Gaza, I think it is equally condemnable to compare it to the Holocaust.

    The Holocaust was a unique organized evil.

    1. Carolinian

      It was uniquely well organized but not unique. Just look to the Congo or any other example of genocide.

      This claim of “unique” is of course one of the basic justifications for the creation of Israel and vital to its ongoing actions against people who had nothing to do with the Holocaust. So “unique” is something worth arguing about.

    2. J. X. Rodriguez

      I don’t think you can grade abominations. It is true each is unique and they are of different sizes and shapes, but they are of the same substance. And whoever touches them to make use of them, becomes tainted — or worse — by that same substance.

    3. Bugs

      I agree. But I think a comparison of the siege of the Warsaw Ghetto and the Gaza Strip is a valid one, but for the determination to exterminate through the Final Solution. The Israeli government is of no such barbarity or ideology. The current cabinet is a very expansionist nationalist, quasi racist, right wing militaristic one, but they are not fascist murderers. The distinction is worth making.

  9. Weil

    The use of the word ‘terrorism’ is weaponized by the US to mean anyone that does not go along with its ruling class based rules order.

    In the global south where US dictatorship has been the norm since the Monroe doctrine, 200 years ago, the people there understand what the class struggle means and know that revolutions are necessary to throw out despots and supplicants of the US and imperialism.

    Petro lived in the mountains as a guerilla. He knows better than ‘Antony’ Blinken about land seizures, land reform and peace.

    Petro, like Ecuador the new Colombia, now sits on the side of the enemy ledger the US is unfolding in the region.

    Oppressed people do not condemn other oppressed people for their struggles, nor do they embrace US imperialism and its mendacious actions and lies as any salvation or message of hope. They do not embrace their oppressors.

    This is true for Ukraine and it is true for Gaza.

    Having lived in Nicaragua for one year during the war in 1985, I saw and heard what the US was doing and telling the American people as they funded the murder of 30,000 Nicaraguans.

    The guerillas were also called terrorists. How unusual.

    Now with Biden bringing Elliot Abrams, the war criminal and genocide overseer of Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua, we see more bellicosity in the region as the US prepares to takeover all of the region and prevent and leftist alternative.

    the bloody history is just too long.

  10. ciroc

    The FLN was willing to attack civilians. This was the best way to shake up the white settlers and drive them out.
    They wanted Algerian independence, not admiration for fairness.

  11. Feral Finster

    The US already had it out for Petro, on account of his refusal to act as America’s Attack Dog with regard to Venezuela and his refusal to fellate Zelenskii on cue.

  12. Feral Finster

    From a very young age I studied the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and I know of the immense injustice that the Palestinian people have suffered since 1948. Just as I know about the immense injustice that the Jewish people suffered at the hands of the Nazis in Europe since 1933.

    If I had lived in Germany in ’33 I would have fought on the side of the Jews and if I had lived in Palestine in 1948 I would have fought on the Palestinian side.”

    Mark Edelmann, the only Warsaw Ghetto Uprising commander to survive WWII, said much the same thing.

  13. Eclair

    Thank you, Nick, for your excellent post. I am feeling scraped raw by the events of the past few days. Especially since they follow hard on the events of the past 18 months in Ukraine. Not since the preliminaries to the US invasion of Iraq, have I felt so alienated from my government, and from most of my friends and family.

    I am constantly emotionally and intellectually crushed by the labelling of movements that seek redress against decades of occupation and repression by an entity that has attained some form of legitimacy by virtue of its superior military and financial strength, as ‘terrorist.’

    Yeah, theoretically, oppressed groups should embrace non-violent forms of resistance. Bring flowers; get shot. Rinse. Repeat. Eventually, you will prevail. Or, just give in to the stronger force. Like the light-hearted advice we were given as female college freshmen: if you are being raped, don’t resist … just ‘relax and enjoy it.’

    Why is one group engaging in violent acts against an occupying force labelled a Resistance Movement (as in the French Resistance in WW 2) and another group engaging in violent acts against an occupying and or repressive governmental force, labelled Terrorists (as in the IRA, AIM, Hamas, the Black Panthers, ISIS, the MauMau …… ad infinitum?) OK, rhetorical question.

    I just want to huddle inside some propaganda-proof Faraday cage, emerging occasionally to scream, ‘just listen to yourselves, people!’

  14. Candide

    The relationship between the US and Israel is in full flower.
    When Guatemalan Mayans finally rose up in military fashion
    over their total oppression, after US intervention on behalf of
    US owned United Fruit, the US remembered the skillful
    violence of the Israeli military terrorizing and expelling
    Palestinians, and our two countries cooperated in what
    the UN acknowledged as genocide against the Mayans.
    In Argentina, violent actions against citizens by US-selected generals
    included torture and killings helped by Israeli agents
    so “evenhanded” that progressive Jews were not spared.
    I mentioned Guatemala in a discussion after the play,
    “Wrestling Jerusalem” and the author/actor said he’d
    never heard such a thing. Down the row Hodding Carter,
    former state dept spokesperson and husband of legendary
    human rights officer Patt Derian spoke: “There are photos
    of General Ariel Sharon in a jeep in Latin America!”

    Our two countries are a deadly influence on each other
    and the role of “honest broker” in so-called peace talks
    is a seven decades long fraud that we’re supposed to
    believe, even as “honest broker” is a phrase no one
    can use any more. Engineering and covering for each other’s
    crimes is at the heart of the relationship.

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