The reaction of Latin American governments to Israel’s aggression on Gaza has ignited a spectrum of opinions, from outright condemnation to neutral rhetoric. In 2009, the brutality unleashed during Operation Cast Lead led Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Bolivia’s Evo Morales to sever diplomatic relations with Israel. Expressing his concerns over genocide, Morales had stated his intent to request that the International Criminal Court press charges against Israeli officials.
Venezuela and Bolivia became the first countries to join Cuba in breaking off diplomatic ties with Israel, the latter having severed relations since Israel’s invasion of the Golan Heights in 1973.
Whilst Morales’ 2009 statement was regularly cited throughout Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, the Bolivian government expressed concerns about Israel’s role as an international threat to stability in the Middle East and Latin America, citing its ties to the US as well as countries such as Colombia – a well-known recipient of US humanitarian aid and purchaser of Israeli drones. According to Morales, Israel and Colombia are a threat to countries which have taken a revolutionary stance.
In what may be perceived as a reiteration of these decisions, Chavez denounced the air strikes stating, “Another aggression against the Gaza strip has begun. Savage, savage: the State of Israel bombing the Gaza Strip again.” Chavez also expressed the view that Operation Pillar of Defence was primarily a reaction to Mahmoud Abbas’ decision to request Palestine’s UN membership.
Chile and Argentina have been less vociferous in their official statements regarding Israel’s air strikes on Gaza. In response to a request from Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi, seeking support to ‘prevent an increase in the number of civilian victims in the Gaza strip’, Argentina has urged the UN Security Council to take a stance in order to ‘end the on-going violence’. Chile’s Sebastian Piñera has been less emphatic in his statement, failing to take a direct stance and declaring direct dialogue between Palestinians and Israelis as the solution to the conflict.
Mercosur-an economic and political union promoting free trade between member countries in Latin America, issued a declaration against the ‘disproportionate use of force’, as well as expressing the ‘strongest condemnation of the violence unleashed between Israel and Palestine’. Mercosur signed a free trade agreement with the Palestinian Authority last year. However, it is worth nothing that a similar agreement was primarily signed with Israel in 2007, bringing to light Israel’s importance for certain governments in the region. Upon learning about Venezuela’s inclusion in the bloc, Israel expressed ‘concern’ on the pretext that Iranian agents are operating in Venezuela to the detriment of other member countries.
What arises as a significant concern is the dependence of certain Latin American countries upon Israeli drone technology. In addition to Colombia’s request for drones under the pretext of monitoring borders and organised crime, Brazil, Ecuador and Chile have also made similar purchases from Israel.
While trade in the name of alleged security might have been a major reason behind the faltering condemnation of Operation Pillar of Defence, it is clear that the people of Latin America – themselves victims of US aided dictatorships, have aligned themselves with the Palestinian cause. On the streets, there have been no illusions about diplomatic solutions and UN involvement to broker a negotiation in favour of the Palestinian people.
Apart from protests and solidarity vigils across the region, social networking sites refuse to allow this recent history to wallow in oblivion. For the masses, the latest atrocities signify a maintained oppression which could provoke serious repercussions if isolated from the rest of Palestinian history.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.