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Latin American diplomat Luis Almagro honored for efforts fighting antisemitism

Uruguay's Almagro stands out from other Latin American leaders in his support of Israel and the Jewish people.

Published: April 11, 2024 11:00pm

The head of the Organization of American States, a coalition of North and South American nations, is being honored by Jewish groups for his efforts in combating antisemitism even as many Latin American nations have shown rising anti-Israel sentiments amid the Israel-Hamas War. 

The Combat Antisemitism Movement and B’nai B’rith International honored Luis Almagro Thursday for his work fighting hatred and antisemitism over the past decade. 

Almagro, who previously served as a diplomat for Uruguay in Iran, Germany and China, has not always expressed such an affinity for Israel. In 2010, his first year as Uruguay's foreign relations minister under the left-wing Broad Front party, Almagro announced that his country would recognize a Palestinian state. While running for the position of secretary general in 2014, Almagro accused Israel of committing a "massacre" in Gaza, according to The Miami Herald.

Multiple factors influenced Almagro's change of attitude toward Israel, including concerns about Iran-backed terrorism in Latin America and the rise of radicalism and antisemitism, according to Shay Salamon, Combat Antisemitism Movement's director of Hispanic affairs.

After a suspected Iranian bombing attempt on the Israeli Embassy in Uruguay's capital of Montevideo in early 2015, Almagro stressed that the embassy and the Jewish community needed extra protection.

"I recently requested from the interior minister to order special security for the Israeli embassy, as well as for the Jewish community of Uruguay. We need to be prepared for any eventuality," he said, The Times of Israel reported at the time. The incident also opened the door to Israeli security cooperation. 

Months after the suspected bombing attempt, Almagro became Secretary General of the Organization of American States. By 2019, the organization adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's working definition of antisemitism, and he declared that he would "work every day to accomplish a Hemisphere free of antisemitism, free of terrorism, free of dictatorships."

Under his leadership, the organization declared Hamas a terrorist group in 2021. That same year, Almagro established the organization's first antisemitism commissioner for Latin America

After the Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas' terror attacks in Israel that left about 1,200 people dead and 240 others kidnapped, Almagro voiced his support for Israel. An unknown number of Israeli women were raped, beaten and ultimately killed, after which their bodies were reportedly paraded through the streets of Gaza to cheering Palestinian crowds. 

"We condemn the terrorist attack against Israel in the strongest terms. Once again, Hamas targets [the] civilian population, an act that violates human rights & international law. We call on [the] Palestinian Authority to put an end to this aggression. Israel has the right to defend itself," he wrote on X, formerly Twitter. 

Almagro stands out from other Latin American leaders in his support of Israel and the Jewish people.

Since Oct. 7, 2023, at least six of the 32 active members of the Organization of American States have ended diplomatic relations with Israel, recalled their ambassadors or started international criminal probes against Israel. Those countries include Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Honduras and Mexico

Up to 25,000 Jews live in Uruguay, according to The Jewish Agency for Israel, while as many as 500,000 Jews live across Latin America, and Almagro has been incredibly supportive, Combat Antisemitism Movement's (CAM) Director of Hispanic Outreach Shay Salamon told Just the News

Almagro showed "a lot of care directly to our communities and our societies in Latin America," Salamon said. 

The Combat Antisemitism Movement is "very grateful" to be able to work with the Organization of American States and plans to "continue working with international organizations to fulfill our mission," Salamon also said. 

Follow Madeleine Hubbard on X or Instagram.

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