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A bipartisan group of U.S. House lawmakers condemned Colombia on Friday for the South American country announcing it will break off relations with Israel because of its war on Gaza. 

The lawmakers — including Reps. María Elvira Salazar and Debbie Wasserman-Shultz — said the action supports the terrorist group Hamas and is antisemitic.

The Israel-Hamas war has driven around 80% of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million from their homes, caused vast destruction in several towns and cities, and pushed northern Gaza to the brink of famine. The death toll in Gaza has soared to more than 34,500 people, according to local health officials, and the territory’s entire population has been driven into a humanitarian catastrophe.

The war began Oct. 7 when Hamas attacked southern Israel, abducting about 250 people and killing around 1,200, mostly civilians. Israel says militants still hold around 100 hostages and the remains of more than 30 others.

The same day as Colombia’s announcement, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan imposed an Israel trade ban because it could no longer “stand by and watch” the violence in Gaza.

Much of the criticism from lawmakers was directed at Colombian President Gustavo Petro, the country’s leftist leader elected in 2022. 

Salazar, whose South Florida district includes Key Biscayne, called the announcement by Petro “despicable” on the social media platform X, formerly Twitter. 

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“Like every Marxist, he diverts attention from his disastrous government, fueling antisemitism,” Salazar posted.

She said she warned “about Petro’s dangerous attitude towards the Jews,” adding that Colombia now stands with Iran, Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.” 

Wasserman-Shultz, D-FL, released a statement, saying it was endorsed by members of the Congressional Latino-Jewish Caucus including, Reps. Salazar,  Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fl; Tony Gonzalez, R-Tex.; Adriano Espaillat, D-NY; Henry Cuellar, D-Tex.

“President Petro’s vitriolic rants comparing Israel to the Nazis, embrace of Hamas’ terrorist ideology, and justification of violence targeting Israeli civilians, create a tangible risk for Colombia’s Jewish community which is facing a surge of antisemitism,” the statement read.

Petro in March said Colombia would stop purchasing weapons from Israel after Palestinians were killed seeking airdropped aid packages. “This is called genocide and is reminiscent of the Holocaust even if the world powers do not like to recognize it,” Petro wrote in Spanish on social media. 

On announcing the diplomatic break, Petro called Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu a “genocidal president.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz accused Petro of being “a hateful antisemite.”

The statement by the lawmakers says Colombia’s decision to sever ties hurts efforts to free the remaining 132 hostages — including an Israel-Colombian dual national.

“These actions do not reflect the views or interests of the Colombian people,” the statement read.

JOHN PACENTI is the executive editor of the Key Biscayne Independent. John has worked for The Associated Press, the Palm Beach Post, Daily Business Review, and WPTV-TV.

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JOHN PACENTI is the executive editor of the Key Biscayne Independent. John has worked for The Associated Press, the Palm Beach Post, Daily Business Review, and WPTV-TV.