Latin America's solidarity with Gaza defies US imperialism

Demonstration in solidarity with the Palestinian people, São Paulo, Brazil. November 17, 2023. In English, the placards read: ‘End the blockade of Gaza’ and ‘Ceasefire now.’ Photo by Rovena Rosa/Agência Brasil, used with permission.

This article is written by Simón Rodríguez Porras, and was originally published in The New Arab on November 9, 2023. An edited version is republished on Global Voices as part of a content-sharing agreement.

In the past month, tens of thousands have taken to the streets of Buenos Aires, Mexico City, São Paulo, Santiago, Bogota and other Latin American cities to protest against Israel's genocidal offensive in Gaza, demanding a ceasefire and the breaking of diplomatic relations with Zionist apartheid.

On October 31, the Bolivian government even broke diplomatic relations with Israel following the massacre at the Jabalia refugee camp. The same day, the governments of Colombia and Chile recalled their ambassadors to Israel for consultations. Honduras did the same on November 3.

The Brazilian government, initially equidistant, has become more critical of Israeli actions as the weeks go by.

“What we have now is the insanity of Israel's prime minister, who wants to wipe out the Gaza Strip,” said Brazilian President Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva on October 27, two days after he called it a genocide for the first time.

On October 15, the Brazilian delegation to the UN Security Council proposed a very modest resolution recommending “humanitarian pauses,” winning 12 votes in favor, with Russia and the UK abstaining and the US vetoing. Israel responded by suspending the departure of 34 Brazilian citizens from Gaza to Egypt, a policy the Brazilian ruling Workers Party called discriminatory. Thirty-two Brazilians were finally rescued on November 12.

The Mexican government, traditionally neutral on the Palestinian issue, finally made some criticism last week at the UN of the indiscriminate Israeli attacks and mentioned that “reprisals are contrary to international law,” demanding an immediate and lasting cessation of hostilities.

Even the Argentine government, usually inclined to support Israel, issued a communiqué on November 1 stating that, “nothing justifies the violation of international humanitarian law and the obligation to protect the civilian population in armed conflicts.”

Israel has responded predictably, condemning Bolivia's alleged support for “terrorism” and “submission to the Iranian regime,” and accusing the Colombian government of “anti-Semitism.”

Historically, Israel has tended to have better relations with the region's corrupt dictatorships, like Pinochet,  Trujillo, and Somoza. In 2021, Honduras moved its embassy to Jerusalem under the administration of Juan Orlando Hernandez, currently imprisoned in the US for drug trafficking.

Bolivia broke diplomatic relations with Israel in 2009 and declared Israel a terrorist state in 2014, but in 2020, during the de facto government of Jeanine Añez, diplomatic relations with Israel were reestablished. Now, Bolivia has joined Venezuela and Cuba as the third country in the region to sever diplomatic ties.

The Nicaraguan government broke off relations with Israel in 2010 but reestablished them in 2017, and, after its dictatorial turn in 2018, has maintained them.

On October 27, a UN General Assembly resolution calling for a humanitarian truce was finally approved. Only the governments of Guatemala and Paraguay voted against it, while Haiti and Panama abstained.

On November 2, Chilean President Gabriel Boric and Colombian President Gustavo Petro attended a regional summit in Washington, where they said to have raised their concerns about Israeli crimes with Biden.

Three days before, the Colombian president had expressed:

“It is called genocide, they do it to get the Palestinian people out of Gaza and appropriate it. The head of state who does this genocide is a criminal against humanity. His allies can't talk about democracy.”

Israel suspended arms sales to Colombia in mid-October after Petro compared Zionist methods to those of the Nazis.

In recent decades, Colombia has been one of the main Latin American military clients of Israel, which also played an important role in the repression of guerrillas and social movements, the creation of ultra-right paramilitary groups and the extermination of a leftist party. 

Apart from North Korea, the only non-Muslim-majority states that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel are in Latin America. This underlines the strategic importance of the region for the possibility of an international anti-apartheid bloc.

But the difficulties do not come only from the presence of a regional right wing strongly supportive of Israel, especially evangelical fundamentalist organisations.

The centre-left governments of the so-called “pink tide” have verbally supported Palestine but in many cases without taking concrete measures of solidarity or even decreasing military imports from Israel, as did the Lula and Dilma governments in Brazil.

Pink tide governments of Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay signed the Free Trade Agreement between Mercosur and Israel in 2007, negotiated during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Agreements with Israeli state-owned water company Mekorot, to advise heavily privatized water distribution systems in Latin America, have been a feature of governments from both sides of the political spectrum.

Yet the main obstacle to a diplomatic and economic break with Israel, whose role in the region has been one of open complicity with dictatorships and repression of dissent, is the hegemonic role played by US imperialism in Latin America. Rupture with Israel is a direct challenge to it.

In light of this situation, the emerging Latin American solidarity movement must have a clear vision and promote it with autonomy and independence. In Chile, which has the largest Palestinian diaspora in the region, the Boric government refused to authorise a march in Santiago rejecting Israeli attacks.

These ambiguities and inconsistencies of governments that claim to be in favor of the Palestinian cause have to be confronted. Declarations against Israeli crimes are necessary but nowhere near enough; concrete measures are urgent. It's time to redouble the demand to break off relations with Israel.

In unions, student centers, university governing bodies, and popular and social organisations, it's urgent to promote resolutions condemning Israeli apartheid and the ongoing genocide, as we have seen others do.

Follow the example of Colombia’s Coal Workers Federation, which approved a resolution calling the government to “suspend shipments of Colombian coal and any metals or minerals to Israel as a pressure measure for an immediate ceasefire.”

Echo the call of the Palestinian unions for a boycott of all military exports to Israel. Following the exhortation of Birzeit University, universities must call on their governments to suspend relations with Israeli universities.

Where possible, create local chapters of the international campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel and Apartheid Free Spaces. Articulate the defense of the Palestinian people with the denunciation of Israel's role in Latin America, as a partner of dictatorships and auxiliary agent of US imperialism in the suppression of democratic rights.

In the face of each step taken by the governments, demand the next one. If they are in favor of a humanitarian truce, demand they call for a cease-fire. If they call their ambassadors for consultation or characterize Israeli actions as war crimes, violations of international humanitarian law or genocidal acts, then demand the severance of diplomatic and economic relations.

If, as in the case of Bolivia, they break diplomatic relations, demand that they cut economic and trade agreements, as well. 

Unfortunately, the regional trend does not show a great rise in the independent actions of the working class and popular sectors. The weight of US hegemony in the region is still great.

In spite of everything, we must boldly take advantage of any gap, any opportunity, and demand what is necessary to isolate and defeat Israel’s settler colonialism, apartheid, and military occupation. If not now, when?

Start the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.