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By Eduardo Kohn, B’nai B’rith Director of Latin American Affairs

Countries around the world reacted differently to the treacherous attacks launched by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7 on kibbutzim and at a huge concert in Israel, which killed more than 1,200 people and seriously hurt 4,000. Hamas also kidnapped more than 200 hostages who were taken to Gaza.

There were different reactions in Latin America in the days after the deadly attacks and the kidnapping of babies, children, youth, women, elderly, and a lot of them, Israeli citizens who emigrated from Latin America, mostly from Argentina, Mexico, Chile and Brazil.

The day of the Hamas attack, Brazil issued a statement saying it hoped to prevent the escalation of the conflict between “the two sides,” condemning the attacks. The country’s foreign ministry reaffirmed a commitment to a “two-state solution” with Palestinians and Israelis coexisting within mutually agreed and internationally recognized borders.

“The Brazilian government through its foreign ministry reiterates that there is no justification for resorting to violence, especially against civilians, and urges all parties to exercise maximum restraint to prevent an escalation of the situation.” So, from the very beginning, Brazil twisted the situation. It did not mention Hamas, it mentioned “all parties,” which is an offense because there are no “all parties” but a terrorist group that attacked and slaughtered civilians of a democratic and free state. In the following two months the Brazilian government has helped very little to show the reality on the field and has proposed all sorts of resolutions in U.N. agencies to condemn the Israeli right to self-defense.

The other largest country in the region, Mexico, behaved pathetically. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador stressed his government’s foreign policy of “non-intervention, self-determination of peoples, cooperation for development and peaceful resolution of differences.” Lopez Obrador said: “We don’t want to take sides, because we want to be a factor in the search for a peaceful solution.” Mexico has never given any sympathy for the victims of the brutal Hamas attack, never said a word about the hostages, but voted against Israel in the so-called resolutions made by the United Nations General Assembly.

Colombian President Gustavo Petro has been the most violent Latin American leader blasting Israel in the worst possible ways and inciting to Jew hatred. Petro compared Israeli actions against Palestinians in Gaza to those of Nazis in Auschwitz. Petro, who frequently accuses Israel of abuses against Palestinians, has been insulting the Jewish people and the State of Israel. He tweeted, not once but many times after Oct. 7, “I was at the Auschwitz concentration camp and now I see a carbon copy of it in Gaza.” He also tweeted, “War has broken out again between Israel and Palestinian Gaza,” adding that international powers were “treating in one way the Russian occupation of Ukraine and in another, very different, way the Israeli occupation of Palestine.” Petro has always written and spoken against Israel. He is close to the Iranian speeches against Israel and the Jewish people. He said nothing about the Oct. 7 massacre, and when the Israeli ambassador spoke out about his comments, there was a tense situation because Petro said publicly that “if I have to sever relations with Israel, I will do it.”

Argentina has the largest Jewish community in Latin America. On Oct.7, almost 10 Argentineans were killed, 21 were kidnapped, half of them released in the seven days of truce between Israel and the terrorists. There are still small children in captivity. Immediately after the Hamas attacks, the Argentine Foreign Ministry “condemned Hamas’ terrorist actions against Israeli territory and called for an end to the violence and that the security of civilians be guaranteed. Argentina expressed its solidarity with the Israeli people and extended its deepest condolences to the victim’s families.”

On Dec. 10 the elected President Javier Milei was inaugurated. He committed before the Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen that he will do “all in his power” to establish that Hamas is a terrorist group; and he underlined that his government supports the right of Israel to defend itself against Hamas.

The pro-Hamas Venezuelan government expressed “deep concern” over the developments and called on Israel to fully and immediately end all settlement and occupation activities in the Palestinian territories, considering it the only way to achieve peace. In a statement on X, it said the fighting was “the result of the impossibility of the Palestinian people to find in multilateral international legality a space to assert their historic rights.” Maduro’s dictatorship never said a word of the slaughter made by Hamas.

The Bolivian foreign ministry expressed “deep concern” about the violence in the Gaza Strip between Israel and Palestine in a written statement. It said Bolivia regrets the U.N.’s inaction and believes it has a responsibility to address the crisis and find solutions. Again, another government not saying a word on Hamas and showing the situation as a confrontation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Ironically, still influential and pro-Hamas former Bolivian President Evo Morales criticized his country over the statement. He shared on X his disappointment that the statement did “not accurately reflect the real situation faced by Palestinians.” He condemned the “imperialist and colonial actions of the Zionist government.” Morales is one of the closest allies of Iran in Latin America together with Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua.

In Chile, where an estimated 350,000 Palestinians and their descendants live, making up the largest community in the diaspora outside the Middle East, Foreign Minister Alberto van Klaveren released a disgraceful statement on X immediately after Oct. 7. “We are following with great concern the terrorist attack against Israel and express solidarity with the victims and their relatives. We condemn the use of violence and demand its immediate stop. We keep our commitment to the peace process between Israel and Palestine.” Hamas? Not a word. Peace process? What peace process after a brutal attack and killings made by Hamas? The alleged “balance” that van Klaveren always tries to show in the international organizations this time was a demonstration of deep unbalanced political stance.

Chilean President Gabriel Boric was absolutely unbalanced and as other leftist leaders in the region, he twisted the situation with evil: “From Chile, we will firmly urge peace in all areas, recognizing the right to exist for both states, Israel and Palestine, and for the peoples that inhabit them to have a dignified and safe life.” Like the foreign minister, Boric did not mention Hamas. Worse: he did not condemn Hamas and he did not care that there were Chileans among the victims and the hostages.

Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay condemned the attack on Israel, condemned Hamas, demanded for the release of the hostages through statements issued by their governments and foreign ministries. And President of El Salvador Nayib Bukele, who is of Palestinian descent, compared Hamas to gangs in his own country. He tweeted: “Anyone who supports the Palestinian cause would make a great mistake siding with those criminals of Hamas.”

More than two months after the Oct.7 pogrom perpetrated by Hamas against Israeli civilians, those who have not condemned Hamas in Latin America have not changed their speeches and behavior. The Jewish community in Colombia, harassed by the ongoing Jew hatred of the president of the country, Petro issued a statement, which in brief establishes: “As the representative organization of the Jewish community of Colombia, we reject the obstinance of President Gustavo Petro in refusing to openly and without subterfuge condemn the savage aggression of which the State of Israel, a great friend of Colombia, was subjected  by the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas, as have done the vast majority of democracies of the world. The recurring statements of President Petro on X seemed to be justifying the actions of Hamas and its war crimes.”

As in the rest of the world, anti-Semitism has increased in all Latin America, and worse in those countries where there is incitement from the governments. Israel is not alone, as friendly presidents (Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina today, Guatemala, Peru) have told to Israeli authorities (president, prime minister, foreign minister) in several phone calls. And it is true. Israel is not completely alone in the region, but the majority are very unfriendly, and some, are brutal as any Iran proxy can be.

This panorama brings more unrest and uncertainty to the Jewish communities. Under this new reality, which started Oct. 7, it is very difficult to see a little candle trying to bring some light at the end of the road.

Eduardo Kohn, Ph.D., has been the B’nai B’rith International Director of Latin American Affairs since 1984. Before joining B’nai B’rith, he worked for the Israeli embassy in Uruguay, the Israel-Uruguay Chamber of Commerce and Hebrew College in Montevideo. He is a published author of “Zionism, 100 years of Theodor Herzl,” and writes op-eds for publications throughout Latin America. He graduated from the State University of Uruguay with a doctorate in diplomacy and international affairs. To view some of his additional content, click here.