The Hamas terrorist attack on Israel and the Netanyahu government’s response have placed Latin American countries in a dilemma on the conflict and the world stage. The region has exhibited major internal divisions, with the left supporting the Palestinian platform and the right voicing solidarity with Israel. The complex geopolitical global landscape presents a constant challenge for Latin American nations seeking their place in the world and aspiring to international influence. This has led to a stance on salient events, such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the Hamas attack on Israel.
The region lacks a unified approach to the Ukraine and Middle East crises, with subtle differences. Most Latin American countries condemn Hamas’ attack on Israel, but also express solidarity with Palestinians and criticism of Israel. The presence of major Jewish and Palestinian communities in some countries complicates the conflict, making it neither distinctive nor distant. The Hamas incursion and Israeli bombardment of Gaza have prompted responses based on the severity of the Israeli response, revealing the unity of Latin America’s progressivism and allowing governments to justify their traditional anti-Israeli positions, highlighting the ongoing conflict.
The debate on the Israeli-Hamas conflict will be shaped by the numbers of deaths and disappearances, the presence of hostages held by Hamas, and the severity of Israeli repression. The incursion into Israeli territory left fatalities in Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, and Peru, with over a dozen people missing. Argentina acknowledges 15 of its citizens held by Hamas in Gaza. The conflict has led to three distinct positions: support for Israel, support for Hamas, and maintaining impartiality. The latter is influenced by US support for Israel and anti-imperialist sentiment in Latin America, with notable figures like Nayib Bukele supporting Israel.
Most countries and their governments have also aligned themselves with Israel, such as Argentina’s President Alberto Fernández condemning the terrorist attack by Hamas from the Gaza Strip upon Israel. Ecuador’s Foreign Affairs Minister expressed solidarity with the victims’ families and the Israeli population, while Guatemala’s President Alejandro Giammattei offered his condolences and support to Israel for the unjustified attacks it had sustained. Guatemala has a historically close relationship with Israel, benefits from numerous aid programs, and became the second Latin American country to open an embassy in Jerusalem in 2018.
The Hamas attacks have been condemned by various countries, including Honduran President Xiomara Castro, Costa Rica, Panama, Peru, Uruguay, Dominican Republic, Paraguay, and Chile. These governments have expressed their solidarity with Israel, calling for an immediate halt to violence against the Israeli people, and condemning the actions of terrorists wherever they occur. Chile, with its largest Palestinian community in the region and a government backed by traditionally critical parties, has also condemned the attack but called for a halt to the violence. Other regional powers, such as Brazil and Mexico, have shown ambivalence in their condemnation or support for Israel. Brazil, which holds the Presidency of the UN Security Council, condemned the attacks against Israel, but called for moderation on all sides to avoid an escalation of the conflict.
Brazil’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, condemned Israeli terrorist attacks and called for peace talks. He also called for protection for Palestinian and Israeli children trapped between Israel and Hamas, and convened a UN Security Council meeting. Mexico’s government, however, emphasizes the need for a far-reaching solution, based on the two-state premise. The Minister, Alicia Bárcena, supports a comprehensive and definitive solution that addresses Israel’s legitimate security concerns and enables the consolidation of a politically and economically viable Palestinian state coexisting with Israel within secure and internationally recognized borders. She acknowledges Israel’s right to its legitimate defense and expresses her utmost concern about recent events.
President López Obrador refrained from using the term “terrorist” to describe the Hamas attack on the Gaza Strip, instead focusing on his pacifist mantra of “we don’t want war.” He also condemned the use of force against civilians and emphasized Mexico’s traditional foreign policy principles of non-intervention, defense of national self-determination, and peaceful dispute resolution. Regions in Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Cuba were the only ones in Latin America to justify the events without condemning Hamas. Daniel Ortega declared himself to be “always supportive of the Palestinian cause” and deplored the worsening of the Palestine-Israel conflict. His Minister of Foreign Affairs, Denis Moncada, even received a member of the executive committee of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), Ramzi Rabah, while the confrontation was underway.
Venezuela, Bolivia, and Colombia have all expressed their condemnation of the Hamas attacks in the Gaza Strip, with Venezuela focusing on negotiation between Israel and Palestine. Bolivia’s President Gustavo Petro condemned Israel without mentioning the terrorist nature of the attacks, causing a disagreement with the Israeli Ambassador. Colombia’s President Gustavo Petro advocates for no hostage situation in Palestine or Israel. The Israeli government threatened to cut off exports to Colombia following Petro’s pronouncements, and Petro responded uncompromisingly, stating that they would suspend diplomatic relations with Israel and not support genocides. He later emphasized the importance of the Colombian armed forces fighting against guerillas and terrorism. The stances taken over the Ukraine crisis have been nearly identical, with slight differences. In the previous crisis, the Security Council convened a special emergency session, with most Latin American countries voting in favor, with Colombia being the most unaccountable.
The remaining countries condemned the attack and the two regional powers criticised the aggression while emphasizing the general context to explain what took place. In Brazil, the President was more outspoken than the Foreign Ministry, while the opposite was the case in Mexico. In both cases, there were opposing attitudes between governments and some of their political allies, especially those located more towards the left, such as the PT party. Various countries in Latin America, characterized by immigration, have sizeable communities of Jewish and Muslim origin, particularly Palestinian. Argentina, the country with Latin America’s largest Jewish community, has condemned Hamas and the main candidates to succeed him. The left, under suspicion of Iran’s involvement in the attacks, strongly supported the Palestinian cause, with the Workers’ Left Front (FIT) marching to the Israeli Embassy to express support for Palestine and an immediate end to Gaza bombardment.
Chile’s President Boric condemned the Hamas attack, despite not calling it an act of terrorism. He had previously expressed sympathy for the Palestinian cause and rejected Israel’s “illegal occupation.” Chile’s government called for the cessation of pointless violence, causing tension with the Israeli government. The Foreign Affairs Minister, Gil Artzyeli, described Minister Alberto van Klaveren’s comments on the Middle East crisis as unfortunate and lamentable. Support for the conflict has split along left-right lines, with the left supporting Hamas and the right supporting Israel. In Argentina, the left presidential candidate, Myriam Bregman, expressed heartbreak over civilian victims in a conflict rooted in Israel’s policy of occupation and apartheid against the Palestinian people. In Bolivia, former President Evo Morales openly sided with Hamas, condemning the imperialist and colonialist actions of the Zionist Israeli government. Morales’ words and attack on the government cannot be separated from his struggle for control of the governing MAS party and the next presidential candidacy.
In Uruguay, the Broad Front party issued a declaration on the conflict, rejecting and condemning the Hamas group’s recent terrorist acts that led to hundreds of civilian deaths, injuries, hostages, and displacements. However, it also rejects and condemns the Israeli government’s actions, which have led to a growing number of deaths and injuries in the civilian population and an inhuman blockade leaving more than two million Palestinians without access to water, electricity, and food.