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LATIN AMERICA | 27-01-2024 09:34

Colombia recalls ambassador to Argentina amid Milei-Petro row

Bogotá recalls its ambassador to Argentina after President Javier Milei brands his Colombian counterpart Gustavo Petro a "murderous communist" in an interview.

Colombia recalled its Ambassador to Argentina on Friday after President Javier Milei called his Colombian counterpart Gustavo Petro a "murderous communist."

"The government of Colombia strongly rejects this statement, which attacks the honour of the president … President Milei's words disregard and violate the deep ties of friendship, understanding and cooperation" between the two countries, Colombia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The furore comes after Milei on Thursday said in an interview with Colombian journalist Patricia Janiot that Petro was "sinking Colombia."

Petro, a former urban guerrilla, took office in August 2022 as the country's first leftist president, with the stated goal of achieving "total peace" in a country ravaged by decades of fighting between security forces, leftist guerrillas, right-wing paramilitaries and drug gangs.

He shot back at right-winger Milei by saying those who attack him "have no idea what is communism and what is socialism," adding that "we are not looking for" a system where "the state owns the means of production."

"We believe and want the means of production to be in the hands of the people and not the state," he said while visiting Tumaco, in Colombia’s southwest.

Separately, a statement from Petro's office on Friday said that Milei's "irresponsible" comments "ignore and violate the deep ties of friendship, understanding and cooperation that have historically united Colombia and Argentina."

Ambassador Camilo Romero was summoned back "for consultations," the Foreign Ministry in Bogotá said.

In a post on social media, Romero called Milei a "hypocrite" in a publication in the social network X, which was retweeted by Petro.

"While today he asks our government for approval for his new ambassador to Colombia, he calls President @petrogustavo a murderer," the diplomat claimed.

Relations between Colombia and Argentina have been historically stable, but have been deteriorating since the arrival to power of the ultra-libertarian Milei in December 2023.

As a candidate, Milei equated socialists with "human excrement" while speaking on a Colombian radio station.

Petro compared the remarks to those of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

Later, Petro described Milei's election victory as a "sad moment for Latin America."

Milei came to power late last year amid an economic crisis with inflation running at more than 200 percent per annum and poverty affecting more than 40 percent of the population.

In addition to pushing massive spending cuts and privatisation at home, he has also assailed left-wing governments across the region, including in Chile.

In the interview with Janiot, Milei described Chilean President Gabriel Boric as "someone who has the wrong ideas."

In 2023, Colombia was Argentina's 19th-most important trading partner, with bilateral trade totalling US$1.68 billion, according to INDEC from the national statistics bureau.

 

– TIMES/AFP
 

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