Outgoing Colombian President Recognizes Palestine as a State in One of His Last Acts, Leaving Israel ‘Surprised’ and ‘Disappointed’
The Colombian government, in the final days of the administration of now-former President Juan Manuel Santos, recognized Palestine as a “free, sovereign, and independent state.”
The eleventh-hour foreign policy change, which was reportedly formalized through a letter sent from former foreign affairs minister María Ángela Holguín to Palestinian representatives in Colombia, only came to light this week following the inauguration of new President Iván Duque on April 7.
Carlos Holmes Trujillo, the nation’s new foreign affairs minister under Duque, acknowledged that the recognition had been formally made by the outgoing government. But Holmes added that the new administration “will carefully examine” the implications of the decision and “act in accordance with international law.”
Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon responding to the news by saying that “we are surprised about the report in the media, and are waiting to receive explanations from the new government, which is looking into the matter.”
In a statement, the Israeli embassy in Colombia asked the Andean nation to “reverse the decision,” expressing that it was both “surprised and very disappointed by the decision of the previous government to recognize Palestine as a state.”
If Duque does not reverse the decision, Colombia will become the final nation in South America to recognize the state of Palestine, which declared its independence in 1988. The United Nations has long recognized Palestine’s independence, and now so too do 136 of the 192 U.N. member countries.
Cuba became the first Latin American country to recognize Palestine in 1988 on the day after it declared. The Latin American wave of recognition did not come until later, with Paraguay following suit in 2005, Costa Rica in 2008, and several more in the subsequent years, including Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina — and, in time, every other South American country except for Colombia.
Colombia is a staunch ally of the United States, which along with much of Western Europe, Canada, and Australia, is one of the countries that does not recognize Palestine as a state.
But relations between the two nations have been strained under the President Donald Trump administration, which has chastised Colombia for its surge in the production of coca, the main ingredient used to make cocaine.
Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United States, was in Colombia when the revelation of Santos’ act became public. She was in the country to attend the inauguration of Duque and also announced that the United States would commit an additional $9 million USD in humanitarian aid for Venezuelans now residing in Colombia after fleeing the ongoing economic and social crisis in their homeland.