Latin American Countries Rush to Open Jerusalem Embassies

Following the U.S. embassy’s relocation to Jerusalem last week, several countries have followed suit. Among them, Guatemala opened its own new embassy, while Paraguay and Honduras approved resolutions to do the same. The former two were among only eight countries to oppose a condemnation of Donald Trump’s decision to move the embassy in a December UN resolution.

Indeed, these nations are largely motivated by a desire to ingratiate themselves with the United States. Alignment with American interests in Israel may help Latin America preserve trade relations and foreign aid at a precarious time. Guatemala receives $297 million in aid from the U.S. each year and exports one-third of its products. In light of an ongoing international investigation into corruption by President Jimmy Morales and his administration, Morales cannot afford a blow to his power. Honduras and Paraguay share similar concerns regarding foreign aid and trade, but also fear retaliation in the form of deportations. Fifty-thousand Hondurans in the U.S. lost temporary protected status just weeks ago. In addition, the embassy relocations are attempts to strengthen relations with Israel. The country has previously offered arms deals and aid to Latin America.

Jerusalem also holds religious significance for predominantly Christian countries, where evangelical Christians support the move. In Guatemala, the evangelical community is crucial to Morales’s electoral base. Despite significant Christian populations of their own, European nations condemn any embassy relocations as inflammatory. Moreover, officials consider the moves to be violations of international law and damaging to the effort for regional peace.

After the opening of the U.S. embassy on May 14, over sixty Palestinian protesters were killed and 2,400 more wounded in Gaza by Israeli soldiers. Gaza, a narrow strip of land on the Mediterranean Sea, contains over 2 million Palestinians, many of whom hope to return to Israel one day. During the protests last week, many brought wire clippers to break the fence separating them from what they consider to be an ancestral land. Yet the object of greatest importance to Palestinians is Jerusalem; they believe that they are entitled to the city’s eastern half. In fact, the idea of a two-state, divided Jerusalem has been entertained in negotiations for decades. With the relocation of American and Latin American embassies, the possibility of such a solution is dashed.

 

Photo: Official White House Photo by Benjamin D. Applebaum

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