Colombia to Stop Coal Exports to Israel Over War in Gaza

Colombia's president, Gustavo Petro, announced over the weekend that he would suspend all coal exports to Israel over what he has called a "genocide" in Gaza

Colombia Israel Palestinians

A woman chants anti-Israel slogans during a rally outside the Israeli embassy in Bogota, Colombia, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)

It has been eight months since the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) invaded Palestine in response to the October 7 attack by the militant group Hamas, which left 1,400 people dead in Southern Israel. Since then, the Israeli military has killed over 34,000 Palestinians and injured at least 78,000, many of them children, as a result of airstrikes, bombs, blockades of aid, and sniper attacks, according to the Palestinian health ministry in Gaza. In recent months, we’ve seen a mix of reactions from various Latin American countries. While Argentina and El Salvador have maintained full support for Israel, countries like Mexico and Colombia, which broke diplomatic ties with Israel in May, have spoken out against the country’s violent military campaign and its illegal occupation of Palestine. Colombia’s president, Gustavo Petro, announced over the weekend that he would suspend all coal exports to Israel over what he has called a “genocide” in Gaza. He also stated in a draft decree that coal exports would only start up again if Israel obeyed an order from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to withdraw its military from the Gaza Strip. It marks yet another fallout for the two countries that once held diplomatic relations and traded military technology and various exports, according to the Associated Press.

“We will suspend coal exports to Israel until it stops the genocide,” Petro said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Colombia and Israel first established diplomatic relations in 1957 and have since signed agreements regarding education and trade to benefit both countries. By 2020, the two countries had signed a mutually beneficial free trade agreement, which saw Israel purchasing one percent of Colombia’s total exports including coal, coffee, and flowers with Colombia importing electrical equipment, plastics, and fertilizers. Last year, their coal exports to Israel were worth more than $320 million and made up more than 50 percent of Israel’s total international coal imports, according to Colombia’s National Statistics Department. The coal is used in Israel for its multiple power and electric plants throughout settlements in the West Bank.

Prior to this move, Petro also ended military contracts for equipment back in February. This ended years of his country’s dependence on the country for warplanes, fighter jets, rifles, machine guns, missile systems, fleets, and cybersecurity technology, as well as the maintenance for these weapons that can only be handled by Israeli manufacturers. Critics have pointed out that the Colombian military relies on these weapons to fight guerrilla fighters, rebel groups, and drug cartels in rural areas of the country. But others have celebrated Petro’s decision to put pressure on Israel to withdraw from Palestine and urge other countries who export coal to follow suit. In the meantime, their respective consulates remain open in each other’s countries and continue to trade other goods.

Colombia is the third Latin American nation to end diplomatic relations with Israel since the Israel-Hamas war began, Foreign Policy reported. Petro is the country’s first leftist president and joins Bolivia—which also has a left-wing government—which also broke ties with Israel in October. By mid-November, Belize also suspended diplomatic ties.

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