LA PAZ/BUENOS AIRES (The Thursday Times) — Bolivia has severed diplomatic relations with Israel, marking a decisive stance in Latin America in response to the ongoing military operations in the Gaza Strip. The announcement came on Tuesday from the Bolivian government, which accused Israel of committing “crimes against humanity” amid the escalating conflict with Hamas militants.
This development makes Bolivia one of the initial countries to actively break diplomatic ties over the Gaza war, which was intensified by a retaliatory strike on October 7, following an attack in southern Israel by Palestinian Hamas militants. The Bolivian foreign ministry announced the decision as a rebuke for what it termed as Israel’s inhumane actions in its ongoing war with Hamas.
Bolivia’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Freddy Mamani, made the announcement in a press briefing, deploring the “aggressive and disproportionate” military actions by Israel in Gaza. Similarly, Chile recalled its envoy, citing “unacceptable violations of international humanitarian law” by Israel in Gaza, as stated by the country’s Foreign Ministry.
In a broader context, Bolivia’s move has sent ripples through the region, with neighboring countries Colombia and Chile also recalling their ambassadors to Israel, criticising the Israeli military’s offensive against Hamas. Colombian President, Gustavo Petro, followed suit by withdrawing his nation’s ambassador to Israel, warning that if the violence against Palestinians doesn’t cease, they cannot maintain their presence there. His sentiments were shared on X (formerly Twitter). This collective diplomatic reshuffling indicates a growing discontent among certain Latin American nations toward Israel’s military actions in Gaza, hinting at a deeper geopolitical reshuffling in the region.
All three nations—Bolivia, Chile, and Colombia—known for their leftist governments, echoed similar concerns about the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Gaza. Bolivia’s acting foreign minister, María Nela Prada, accused Israel of causing a humanitarian catastrophe, urging for an end to the violence which has led to civilian casualties and forced evacuations. Chile too, condemned what it saw as collective punishment meted out by Israel to the Palestinian civilians in Gaza.
Prada further criticised Israel for hampering the efforts of international humanitarian aid providers in Gaza, pledging that Bolivia would contribute aid, though specifics weren’t provided. The narrative from Bolivia conspicuously lacked any mention of Hamas’s assault on Israel, aligning with its previous stance which didn’t condemn the attack on Oct. 7 that killed over 1,400 in Israel.
These diplomatic maneuvers in Latin America hint at a larger geopolitical re-evaluation concerning Israel’s role in the Gaza war, potentially signaling a shift in regional alignments amid the ongoing Middle East conflict.
This hasn’t been the first instance of Bolivia severing ties with Israel; a similar scenario played out in 2009 due to conflict in Gaza, with diplomatic relations only being reinstated in 2020. President Luis Arce, known for his leftist orientation, held a meeting with the Palestinian Ambassador to Bolivia, Mahmoud Elalwani, affirming his support for the Palestinian cause.
Arce, posting on X, condemned the war crimes in Gaza, emphasising the need for peace, especially for the children in the affected areas. Bolivia’s former President, Evo Morales, who had initially aligned with Arce but later opposed him, lauded the decision to cut ties, albeit suggesting a stronger stance by labeling Israel a terrorist state and urging for a case to be lodged with the International Criminal Court.
In earlier statements, Bolivia’s Foreign Ministry had voiced concerns over the violence in Gaza, reiterating its support for the Palestinians on Oct. 18, amidst a reported death toll of over 8,500 Palestinians since the conflict began.