International roundup

Por Redacción
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Petro wrote on the social media platform X that coal exports will only resume “when the genocide” in Gaza stops. 

Petro also posted a draft decree, which says that coal exports will only resume if Israel complies with a recent order by the International Court of Justice, that says Israel should withdraw its troops from the Gaza strip.

According to Colombia’s National Statistics Department, coal exports to Israel were worth more than $320 million in the first 8 months of last year. 

That’s a small fraction of the nation’s overall coal exports which were worth more than $9 billion in 2023.

Israel imports more than 50% of its coal from Colombia, according to the American Journal for Transportation, and uses much of it to feed its power plants.

Petro, who was elected into office in 2022 as Colombia’s first leftist president, broke diplomatic ties with Israel in May, saying that he could not maintain relations with the “genocidal” government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Both governments have continued to keep consulates in each other’s territories and conduct trade.

Colombia has long depended on Israel for military hardware that includes assault rifles and intelligence equipment. 

The South American nation has also bought more than 30 fighter jets from Israel over the past three decades, and depends on Israeli companies for their maintenance.

New military purchases have been halted, however, as relations between both countries deteriorate. 

Critics of Petro have said that the president’s decision to cut ties with Israel jeopardizes Colombia’s security capabilities, as its military fights drug cartels and rebel groups in rural parts of the country.

But others applauded Petro’s latest move against Israel. 

The Global Energy Embargo for Palestine, an advocacy group that has been trying to convince nations around the world to stop coal and oil exports to Israel, said in a statement last week.

Colombia’s decision could put pressure on Israel to change its policies in the Gaza Strip, and will also put pressure on Israeli settlements in the West Bank that rely on electric plants fueled by coal imports.

“We urgently call on South Africa, which provides 9% of Israel’s coal, to follow Colombia’s lead,” the group said in the statement, while urging other countries with significant energy exports to also consider a ban.

Unlike previous Colombian presidents, who kept strong ties with Israel, Petro has been an outspoken critic of the middle eastern nation, and initially refused to condemn the Hamas attack that preceded Israel’s invasion of Gaza.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador acknowledged that authorities have had to set up camps for displaced people after some 4,200 residents fled a town in the southern state of Chiapas.

Residents of the town of Tila fled over the weekend after armed gangs shot up the town and burned many homes last week, state prosecutors said. 

It was probably the biggest mass displacement in Chiapas since 1997.

Some residents recounted spending days trapped in their homes before army troops and state police showed up over the weekend to allow them to leave.

Photos distributed by state authorities showed people fleeing with just purses on their shoulders, or sometimes small backpacks or shoulder bags.

López Obrador depicted the assault as “a conflict between the very same people” of the town of Tila, an apparent reference to a longstanding land dispute between farmers.

Víctor Gómez, a resident of Tila, said many people spent three days in their homes, too afraid to go outside, before federal forces arrived. 

“A lot of people left with what they had on their backs, without money, without clothing, they left behind all their possessions, a lot of their pets remained in Tila because they could not be evacuated,” he said.

But observers said criminal gangs and political interests were behind the clash.

The Digna Ochoa Human Rights Center said a group calling itself the “Autonomos,” or Autonomous Ones, was behind the violence, and said it was linked to drug trafficking. 

At least two people were confirmed dead and at least 17 buildings were burned last week, according to state prosecutors.

The gangs had also been blamed for extorting protection payments from residents and setting up roadblocks.

López Obrador said food was being supplied to the camps. He claimed “things have calmed down,” and said the government now wanted to start negotiations with the groups “to reach an agreement so that people can return to their communities.”