Latin America: Gaza protests continue

On Jan. 6 the Venezuelan foreign ministry announced that it was expelling the Israeli ambassador, Shlomo Cohen, to express solidarity with the “heroic Palestinian people” after Israeli’s Dec. 27 military assault on the Palestinian territory of Gaza. Before the announcement, President Hugo Chávez Frias had described the Israeli military as “cowardly” and had called for Israeli president Shimon Peres and US president George W. Bush to be tried by the International Criminal Court for genocide.

Abraham Levy Benshimol, president of the Venezuelan Confederation of Israelite Associations, said Chavez’s remarks were unjust, fundamentally unreal and “worrisome” for the nearly 15,000 people in Venezuela’s Jewish community. (La Jornada, Mexico, Jan. 7; Adital, Jan. 7; AP, McClatchy News Service, Jan. 8) In Israel, the Communist Party sent Chávez a letter on Jan. 8 thanking him for his position. “We believe that yours is an example to imitate, not only for other Latin American governments,” the letter said. “It must be the position of all the states in our region, the Middle East.” (Press release, Jan. 8 via

On Jan. 8 Ecuadoran foreign minister Fander Falconi called Israeli military actions “flagrant violations” of international law and urged the United Nations to issue “a condemnation of Israel for crimes against humanity.” The government saluted all demonstrations showing solidarity with the Palestinian people, Falconi said. (Xinhua, Jan. 8)

As of Jan. 11, the largest Latin American demonstration against the assault was a march of some 20,000 people in Argentina on Jan. 6. “Zionist state, you’re the terrorist,” the crowd chanted as it moved from the Obelisk in downtown Buenos Aires to the Israeli embassy. The organizers included the Land and Housing Federation (FTV), the Socialist Workers Movement (MST), the Workers Party, the Communist Party, the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo and the Argentine Islamic Association. Alejandro Salomon, head of the Federation of Argentine Arab Entities (Fearab), called for the government to break relations with Israel. “We don’t want any dealings with a state that has always voted against Argentina in its claim for the Malvinas,” he said; the islands, known in English as the Falkland Islands, are also claimed by the United Kingdom. There were also smaller demonstrations in other cities on Jan. 6; about 100 people protested in the Plaza Independencia in Tucumán. (Miami Herald, Jan. 8; La Gaceta Tucumán, Jan. 7)

On Jan. 9 Fearab and the FTV launched a national solidarity campaign for humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. The campaign will extend to Jan. 23, Fearab’s Roberto Ahuad said at a press conference held at the office of the Federation of Popular Movements, which is headed by Luis D’Elia. (Telam, Argentina, Jan. 9) (D’Elia is a leader of the leftist Federation of Argentine Workers [CTA] and the FTV—a part of the piquetero [picketer] unemployed movement. He was also an official in the government of former president Nestor Kirchner [2003-2007].)

Hundreds of people marched from the Hemiciclo a Juárez to the US embassy in Mexico City on Jan. 10 to protest Israel’s actions. “Palestine lives, the struggle continues,” they chanted, throwing shoes at the building. The protest was organized by the Mexican Movement of Solidarity with Palestine and other organizations. (La Jornada, Jan. 11)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 11

See our last posts on Gaza and Latin American protests.