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Paraguay consolidates its historical ties with Israeli colonialism and indigenous repression

August 17, 2023 at 2:55 pm

Israeli minister Gilad Erdan greets Paraguay’s President Horacio Cartes [Twitter]

Under the presidency of Horacio Cartes in 2018, Paraguay announced that it would be relocating its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, following the unilateral step by the Trump administration in Washington. Three months later, new President Mario Abdo Benitez reversed the decision and relocated the embassy back to Tel Aviv, prompting Israel to close its embassy in Paraguay. 

Now, yet another reversal is set to take place, as Paraguay is set to become the fifth country to open its embassy in Jerusalem, as announced by Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen yesterday. President Santiago Pena, who took office on Tuesday, is reversing the 2018 Benitez decision. Cohen also announced that Uruguay is going to open a diplomatic mission in Jerusalem.

As a candidate for the presidency in March this year, Pena had promised the transfer of the Paraguayan embassy to Jerusalem during a meeting organised by the Paraguayan-Israeli Chamber of Commerce, stating, “Our country recognises that city as the capital of the State of Israel.” When asked to clarify further, Pena insisted that Israel’s decision to claim Jerusalem as its capital should not be questioned. “We say that our capital is Asuncion, it is what we decided. So I do not question Israel’s sovereignty to define its own capital.” 

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If Pena does not question the illegitimacy of Israel declaring Jerusalem its capital city, of course there will be no questioning of how Israeli colonisation has rendered the Palestinian people perpetually displaced. Paraguay was one of the countries that voted for the 1947 UN Partition Plan. A vote in favour is a vote in favour of the colonial enterprise, no matter how much diplomacy has attempted to disguise Israel’s expansion with the two-state paradigm. 

Not only has Paraguay supported the Zionist settler-colonial project since 1947, but the South American country and the apartheid state also share a more sinister history, both in terms of the repression of the indigenous populations, as well as maintaining diplomatic ties during Alfredo Stroessner’s military dictatorship. 

Between 1956 and 1989, Stroessner enabled the ethnic cleansing of indigenous lands. In the 1970s, the dictatorship sold land to foreign companies which became complicit in the ethnic cleansing of Paraguay’s indigenous communities.  

In 1969, Israel and Paraguay reached an agreement to transfer 60,000 Palestinians over a four-year period, a plan which was abandoned after two Palestinians killed an Israeli embassy employee in May 1970. Had the plan been successful, Paraguay would have been complicit with Israel in the forced transfer of Palestinians from their own homeland. Paraguay also hosted Nazi war criminals such as Josef Mengele, as did other Latin American countries, notably Argentina. The country’s links to Nazism date back to 1927, when Paraguay became the first country, apart from Germany, to create a Nazi party. When it is politically opportunistic, Israel turns a blind eye to such things; even to the narrative it strives so hard to promote. 

“We will continue and strengthen the important historical connection with the countries of Latin America, which have long stood by the State of Israel and the Jewish people,” Cohen stated with regard to Paraguay’s decision. As far as the oppressive history of colonialism and neoliberalism goes, he should have clarified what such an “important historical connection” has actually entailed. 

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The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.