BOGOTA: Israel, one of the main providers of arms to Colombia’s military, said Sunday it was “halting security exports” to the South American country after taking umbrage at its president’s remarks on the war with Hamas.
Since the militant group’s vicious attack on Israel a week ago, President Gustavo Petro has posted numerous comments on X, formerly Twitter, supporting the people of Gaza.
In one post, Colombia’s first-ever leftist president compared Israel’s retaliatory targeting of Gaza to the Nazi persecution of Jews.
Commenting on Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announcing a “complete siege” of Gaza in a fight against “animals,” Petro said: “This is what the Nazis said of the Jews.”
And he asserted that “democratic peoples cannot allow Nazism to reestablish itself in international politics.”
On Sunday, Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Lior Haiat said Colombia’s ambassador to Israel Margarita Manjarrez had been summoned over Petro’s “hostile and anti-Semitic statements.”
The president’s statements were received with “astonishment,” said the spokesman, and accused Petro of “expressing support for the atrocities committed by Hamas terrorists, fueling anti-Semitism, affecting the representatives of the State of Israel and threatening the peace of the Jewish community in Colombia.”
Colombia’s foreign ministry has issued a statement to “vehemently condemn the terrorism and attacks against civilians that have occurred in Israel” and expressing solidarity with the victims.
The link to that statement was later disabled, with a new statement of condemnation not making any mention of “terrorism.”
Colombia’s armed forces, engaged in a decades-long conflict with leftist guerrillas, rightwing paramilitaries and drug cartels, uses Israeli arms and aircraft.
Under the government of rightwing President Alvaro Uribe, relations and cooperation with Israel and the United States were strong.
In response to Haiat’s statement, Petro said his country does not support “genocide.”
“If we have to suspend foreign relations with Israel, we suspend them,” he added.
Opposition parties in Colombia are critical of the government’s response to the Israel-Hamas conflict, which it says stands in marked contrast to the pro-Israeli stance of most countries in the region.
Israel’s envoy to Bogota, Gali Dagan, said last week that protesters had left graffiti that included swastikas on the facade of the embassy.