South American countries recall ambassadors and cut ties with Israel over war with Hamas

Bolivia’s leftwing government cuts diplomatic ties with Israel, alleging crimes and human rights abuses in Gaza, as Chile and Colombia recall ambassadors

The decision for Bolivia to cut ties with Israel over its attacks on Gaza was announced by a minister in President Luis Arce’s administration. Photograph: Sérgio Lima/AFP/Getty Images

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Tom Phillips Latin America correspondent

A number of South American countries have registered diplomatic protests against Israel, in response to its latest conflict with Hamas, with Bolivia’s leftwing government cutting ties entirely and attributing its decision to alleged war crimes and human rights abuses being committed in the Gaza Strip.

The decision by Bolivia was announced at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon by María Nela Prada, a minister in President Luis Arce’s administration. “We demand an end to the attacks on the Gaza Strip which have so far claimed thousands of civilian lives and caused the forced displacement of Palestinians,” the minister told reporters in her country’s de facto capital, La Paz.

Hours later, the governments of Chile and Colombia recalled their ambassadors from Israel, while Brazil’s president criticised the continued airstrikes on Gaza.

Protest for approval of law to remove statute of limitations for sexual crimes against minors<br>epa10896401 A sign reads 'Justice cannot wait' as women participate in a protest calling for parliament to approve laws against sexual crimes in La Paz, Bolivia, 02 October 2023. Dozens of activists mobilized this 02 October in La Paz to call for the Bolivian Parliament to approve a bill that would remove the statute of limitations for sexual crimes against minors, which was rejected by the Legislature a few days ago. EPA/LUIS GANDARILLAS

Bolivia’s deputy foreign minister, Freddy Mamani Machaca, said the decision represented “a repudiation and condemnation of the aggressive and disproportionate Israeli military offensive in the Gaza Strip and its threat to international peace and security”.

The move came after the former president Evo Morales called for his country to sever ties with Israel because of the “horrific situation facing the Palestinian people”. Writing on X, formerly known as Twitter, earlier this month, Morales demanded Israel be classified as a “terrorist state” and for the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and “his accomplices” be denounced to the international criminal court for genocide and war crimes.

Bolivia previously broke off relations with Israel in 2009 after the county’s invasion of the Gaza Strip but re-established ties in 2020 under the rightwing president Jeanine Áñez.

Colombia’s leftwing president, Gustavo Petro, said on Tuesday he had recalled his ambassador over Israel’s “massacre of the Palestinian people”.

Petro recently likened Israel’s actions to those of Adolf Hitler’s Nazis, drawing a rebuke from Israel’s foreign ministry, which accused him of putting Jewish lives in danger and encouraging “the horrific acts of Hamas terrorists” with his “hostile and antisemitic statements”.

Chile’s president, Gabriel Boric, also announced he had recalled his country’s ambassador in Tel Aviv to discuss the “unacceptable violations of international humanitarian law” he said Israel was committing in Gaza.

Boric said the more than 8,000 civilian victims of Israel’s offensive – many of them them women and children – demonstrated that the military operation represented the “collective punishment of the Palestinian civilian population in Gaza”.

The Brazilian president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, last week criticised what he called “the insanity of the prime minister of Israel [in] wanting to destroy the Gaza Strip but forgetting that there aren’t just Hamas soldiers there but also women and children who are the big victims of this war”.

“Just because Hamas committed a terrorist act against Israel, it doesn’t mean Israel has to kill millions of innocent people,” Lula added in another interview.

On Tuesday evening, after reports that dozens had been killed by Israeli airstrikes at a refugee camp in northern Gaza, Lula tweeted: “For the first time, we are witnessing a war in which the majority of the dead are children … Stop! For the love of God, stop!”

November 4, 2023

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