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Outgoing Colombian President Recognizes Palestine as Sovereign State, New Administration to Review Declaration

Former Columbian president declared recognition of Palestine as a sovereign state, but will the declaration hold under the new administration?

Last Wednesday, Colombia’s outgoing President Juan Manuel Santos announced that the Columbian government would recognize Palestine as a sovereign state, following the opening of the Palestinian Embassy in the Columbian capital of Bogota. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate made the surprising announcement just a few days before his term was to end.

A Few Last Words on the Way Out of Office

“I would like to inform you that in the name of the government of Colombia, President Juan Manuel Santos has decided to recognize Palestine as a free, independent and sovereign state in the name of Colombia,” stated a letter from President Santos to the Palestinian Foreign Minister, dated August 3, 2018.

Despite the announcement, Santos’ successor, Ivan Duque, said his newly-inaugurated government would still review and discuss the policy, despite the declaration being validly legal.

“We will analyze the implications and the content of the note with all our attention and the government will take the steps determined by international law,” stated Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo as he briefed reporters in Bogota last Wednesday.

Right-wing President Duque said he would promise to boost the country’s relationship with the Jewish state, even mentioning a possible plan to move the Colombian embassy to Jerusalem.

Despite the excitement of the announcement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled his visit to Bogota, citing the tension in Gaza as the reason for the cancellation.

Mixed reactions

The Israeli Foreign Ministry said that they were shocked by Santos’ last minute recognition of Palestine before his successor took office.

“We are surprised about the report in the media and are waiting to receive explanations from the new government, which is looking into the matter,” says Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon.

Conversely, the Palestinian Authority has also raised concern that Duque would reverse the policy implemented by his predecessor. On a similar note, Palestine carries additional worry that other Latin and Central American nations are likely follow the administration’s suit should they decide to revoke recognition of Palestine as a free state.

How many countries have recognized Palestine as an independent, sovereign state?

If Duque does not annul the recognition, Colombia will be the 137th country that officially recognizes Palestine as an independent state.

Australia, Japan and the Bahamas support a two-state solution as a means of ending the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Some European Union (EU) nations such as Denmark and Belgium are waiting for an official decision from Brussels, the de facto capital of the EU, while other countries, including Finland and Eritrea, openly stated that they do not support the existence of Palestine as a state.

The United Nations (U.N.) General Assembly passed a resolution in 1974 granting Palestine’s rights to sovereignty, also recognizing the Palestine Liberation Authority (PLO) as the only representative for Palestine.

Palestine declared its independence on November 15, 1988 in Algeria. Since then, the PLO has been trying to gain international recognition as an independent state, and as the sole representative of that state.

Is support for Palestine in Latin America and the Caribbean waning?

The U.S. does not recognize Palestine as a free state, and Colombia has been refraining from doing so due to its close ties with Washington.

However, Colombia has tried to map its independent foreign policy in the past few years, which includes the call for an overhaul of the U.S. anti-drug policy implemented by President Nixon.

In December 2017, Colombia, among the 193-member U.N. General assembly, abstained from voting for or against a resolution that urged the U.S. to annul its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Despite abstaining from the U.S. matter of recognizing Israel, Guatemala relocated its embassy to Jerusalem. Mexico, who has traditionally supported Palestine, also chose to abstain from the vote.

U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to cut financial aid for countries that supported the resolution.

During the leadership of left-wing politicians in countries like Venezuela, Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina, and many more, Palestine seemed to have an array of close allies that supported its sovereignty.

However, the presidents in office have changed, and the support for Palestine has changed with them.

Venezuela President Hugo Chavez died, Ecuador President Rafael Correa stepped down, Brazilian Presidents Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff have been expelled from office, with another Brazilian President, Cristina de Kirchner, having her family accused of treason. The rise of far-right populism in the region has put Latin America on the other end of the spectrum from where it once was when it comes to the Israel-Palestine conflict. 

In addition, U.S. resurgence in the area known as their “backyard” has influenced the policy of Latin and Caribbean countries regarding who to side with. Israel has taken advantage of the circumstance, and has recently exerted influence in regions they’ve previously ignored.

Some Central American countries are in critical need of U.S. financial aid for their fights against drug trafficking and criminal gangs, while other countries like Honduras and Guatemala are in need of Israel’s latest military technology due to underground security programs that have been around since the 1970s.

Whether President Duque revokes the decision or not, the Israel-Palestine conflict is unlikely to end or sway anytime soon without a focused and committed push to resolve the issues amongst them.

Yasmeen Rasidi

Yasmeen is a writer and political science graduate of the National University, Jakarta. She covers a variety of topics for Citizen Truth including the Asia and Pacific region, international conflicts and press freedom issues. Yasmeen had worked for Xinhua Indonesia and GeoStrategist previously. She writes from Jakarta, Indonesia.


  1. Phyllis Setterberg-Tobias August 14, 2018


  2. Chari Hayes September 20, 2018

    Netanyahu is a terrorist.

  3. Shayna Alterman September 21, 2018

    What is Palestine?


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