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Salazar and Wasserman-Shultz denounce the Colombian government for cutting diplomatic ties with Israel over Gaza

A bipartisan group of lawmakers from the US House of Representatives condemned Colombia on Friday as the South American country announced it would sever ties with Israel over the war on Gaza.

The lawmakers – including Reps. María Elvira Salazar and Debbie Wasserman-Shultz – said the move supports the terrorist group Hamas and is anti-Semitic.

The war between Israel and Hamas has driven about 80% of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents from their homes, caused massive destruction in several towns and cities, and pushed northern Gaza to the brink of famine. The death toll in Gaza has risen to more than 34,500 people, according to local health officials, plunging the territory’s entire population into a humanitarian catastrophe.

The war began on October 7 when Hamas attacked southern Israel, kidnapping about 250 people and killing about 1,200 people, mostly civilians. Israel says militants are still holding about 100 hostages and the remains of more than 30 others.

On the same day that Colombia made the announcement, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan imposed a trade ban on Israel, saying the country could no longer stand by and watch the violence in Gaza.

Much of the criticism from lawmakers has been aimed at Colombian President Gustavo Petro, the country’s left-wing leader who was elected in 2022.

Salazar, whose South Florida district includes Key Biscayne, called Petro’s announcement “despicable” on the social media platform X, formerly Twitter.

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“Like any Marxist, he is distracting from his disastrous government, fueling anti-Semitism,” Salazar said.

She said she warned “of Petro’s dangerous attitude toward the Jews,” adding that Colombia now stands “alongside Iran, Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.”

Wasserman-Shultz, D-FL, released a statement saying it was endorsed by members of the Congressional Latino Jewish Caucus, including Reps. Salazar, Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fl; Tony Gonzalez, R-Tex.; Adriano Espaillat, D-NY; Henry Cuellar, D-Tex.

“President Petro’s vitriolic diatribes comparing Israel to the Nazis, embrace of Hamas’s terrorist ideology and justification of violence against Israeli citizens create a tangible risk for Colombia’s Jewish community, which is facing a wave of anti-Semitism,” the statement said.

Petro said in March that Colombia would stop buying weapons from Israel after Palestinians were killed while air-dropping aid packages. “This is called genocide and is reminiscent of the Holocaust, even though world powers are reluctant to acknowledge it,” Petro said. wrote in Spanish on social media.

Announcing the diplomatic break, Petro called Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu a “genocidal president.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz accused Petro of being “a hateful anti-Semite.”

The lawmakers’ statement said Colombia’s decision to cut ties will harm efforts to free the remaining 132 hostages – including an Israeli-Colombian dual national.

“These actions do not reflect the views or interests of the Colombian people,” the statement said.

Johannes Pacenti

JOHN PACENTI is the editor-in-chief of the Key Biscayne Independent. John has worked for The Associated Press, the Palm Beach Post, Daily Business Review and WPTV-TV.