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Colombia expels Milei’s diplomats following explosive comments

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Argentine President Javier Milei. In an interview with CNN, the Argentine president called Gustavo Petro a “terrorist assassin”, Mexican President López Obrador “ignorant”, and declared that Israel was not committing “any excesses” in Gaza. Picture: Screenshot

By Peoples Dispatch

Argentina’s libertarian president, Javier Milei, is under fire from his counterparts in the region for comments made during an interview with CNN Español. In response to his explosive comments, wherein he called Colombia’s president, Gustavo Francisco Petro Urrego, a “terrorist assassin”, Colombia’s Foreign Ministry announced the expulsion of Argentina’s diplomats from its embassy in Bogotá, Colombia.

The Foreign Ministry wrote in a statement, “This is not the first time that Mr Milei offends the Colombian head of state, affecting the historical relationship of brotherhood between Colombia and Argentina.”

Indeed, Milei made similar comments about the leftist president back in January. When asked what he thought about the Colombian president, Milei told right-wing Colombian-American journalist Patricia Janiot that he is a “communist assassin that is sinking Colombia”.

In the statement released by the Colombian government, they highlighted: “The expressions of the Argentine president have deteriorated the confidence of our nation, in addition to offending the dignity of President Petro, who was democratically elected.”

Meanwhile, former Argentine president Alberto Fernández also condemned the statement by his successor. “I regret and categorically reject the statements of President Javier Milei, who has mistreated the President of Colombia, Gustavo Petro. My solidarity with the president of the Colombian people. The derogatory and disqualifying way in which the Argentine president expresses himself about presidents legitimately elected by their people and who are recognised leaders throughout Latin America is absolutely inadmissible.”

Gustavo Petro himself responded to Milei’s comments on Thursday and stated, “I believe that Milei seeks to destroy, or at least postpone, the project of Latin American integration. Today the Argentine people suffer and poverty increases. Milei’s promise to repeat the neoliberal system of 30 years ago may be a failure foretold; His thesis in the world that he has seen today as neoliberalism led to worsening the climate crisis, and putting us on the brink of extinction, as a species, is not accurate. The Argentine people are the ones who must discuss these issues and decide.”

He added, “Despite the insults, we must preserve the project of unity, in diversity, of Latin America and the Caribbean.”

Since winning the elections, Milei has rejected the pro-Global South integration position of his predecessors, instead pledging his priority and allegiance to the United States. Weeks after he was sworn in, Milei announced that Argentina would not join the BRICS economic bloc. The body had offered Argentina membership after its Johannesburg summit in August 2023, but Milei stated in December that it would rather do business with the US and Israel. So far Argentina has remained in the Latin American integration platforms but has threatened to withdraw from some.

Milei’s explosive comments were not reserved only for Colombia’s president. The CNN interviewer mentioned that Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador had said some “tough words” about Milei, to which the Argentine president said “That an ignorant person like López Obrador speaks ill of me exalts me”.

The Mexican head of state responded to the comments on Thursday saying, “Milei stated that I am ‘ignorant’ because I called him a ‘conservative fascist.’ You are right: I still do not understand how the Argentines, being so intelligent, voted for someone who is not accurate, who despises the people and who dared to accuse his countryman [Pope] Francisco of being a ‘communist’ and ‘representative of the Evil One in the earth’, when it comes to the most Christian Pope and defender of the poor that I have ever known or heard of. PS Hugs to Gustavo Petro.”

Another segment of the not-yet aired interview that was shared was regarding Milei’s views on Israel’s genocidal war on Gaza. The staunch Zionist declared: “Israel is not committing any excesses.”

The full interview is set to air this Sunday March 31.

This article was first published on Peoples Dispatch