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Latin American Countries Criticize Israel's Actions in Gaza

First Posted: Aug 01, 2014 05:17 PM EDT
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Latin American countries are denouncing Israel's actions by taking diplomatic measures, including the extraction of Latin American diplomats from Israel. 

Bolivian President Evo Morales said Wednesday that Israel is a "terrorist state," and said Israelis will need visas to visit Bolivia. 

While many countries have been freely voicing their opinions about the bloody Gaza/Israeli war, Latin American countries are going a step further by implementing diplomatic measures, including consulting ambassadors and releasing searing statements. 

"Israel doesn't guarantee the principle of respect for life, and the basic right to live in harmony and peace in the international community," Morales said Wednesday in a speech in the city of Cochabamba, Bolivia.

Israel did not immediately respond to Morales' statements or proposal, The Wall Street Journal reports. 

The presidents of four of the five countries in the Mercosur trade bloc met in Caracas, Venezuela to demand an end to the Israeli offensive in Gaza and for Israel to end the blockade on Gaza to allow access to food and humanitarian aid. Argentina, Urugay, Brazil and Venezuela released a statement that they "energetically condemn the disproportionate use of force by the Israeli army in the Gaza Strip, which in the majority affects civilians, including children and women."

One the same day, El Salvador, Chile and Peru called their ambassadors home from the region. Brazil also called back its ambassador to Israel last week, as did Ecuador on July 17. However, Argentina and Urugay, both of which have sizable Jewish communities, kept their ambassadors in Israel. 

Far-left Venezuela, which opposes U.S. policies in the Middle East and is a very sharp critic of Israel, severed ties with the Jewish state a number of years ago. 

Michael Shifter, president of the inter-American Dialogue, a Washington, D.C.-based policy group, said Latin America "has moved to take a stand on the Gaza war."

"In that respect, it has set itself apart from other regional blocs," he said, according to The Wall Street Journal

On Wednesday, Israel's foreign ministry released a statement that expressed its "deep disappointment with the hasty decision of the governments of El Salvador, Peru and Chile to recall their ambassadors for consultations. This step constitutes encouragement for Hamas, a group recognized as a terror organization by many countries around the world."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government also had strong words for Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who called their ambassador to Israel back to Brazil. Israel's Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor called Brazil "a diplomatic dwarf" in response. 

Israel has not responded to Mercosur's joint statement. 

While such Latin American countries have been very vocal in criticizing Israel, the more centrist Latin American countries that have ties with the U.S. expressed a more balanced concern about the violence in Gaza and Israel. Chile's Bachelet government lambasted Hamas' rocket attacks against Israeli civilians. 

"It isn't only the nations with left-leaning governments that have recalled their ambassadors, but this time it is also other governments," Farid Kahhat, a political scientist and Middle East expert with the Catholic University of Peru told WSJ. "This transcends ideologies."

Other countries, such as Colombia and Mexico, are also keeping diplomats in Israel. However, many of the region's countries have been showing support for Palestinians, and abandoning all support for Israel. 

The support for Palestinians began in 2010 and 2011 when the South American countries of Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela recognized a Palestinian state.

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