Colombia expels Argentina’s diplomats after Milei calls Petro ‘terrorist’

Argentina’s president calls his Colombian counterpart a ‘terrorist’, ‘murderer’ and ‘communist’, prompting a diplomatic spat.

Argentinian President Javier Milei addresses supporters after winning Argentina’s run-off presidential election [File: Agustin Marcarian/Reuters]Published On 28 Mar 202428 Mar 2024

Colombia has ordered the expulsion of Argentinian diplomats to the Andean nation, with the Colombian foreign ministry citing “denigrating” comments by Argentinian President Javier Milei about Colombian President Gustavo Petro.

In a statement published on Wednesday, the ministry said “the Argentinian president’s comments have deteriorated the trust of our nation, in addition to offending the dignity of President Petro, who was democratically elected”.

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Milei called Petro a “terrorist”, “murderer” and “communist” in a recent interview with the CNN broadcaster, which has not yet been aired in full.

Libertarian Milei also took swipes at other regional leaders in clips of the interview, including Mexico’s Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

Colombia’s foreign ministry did not specify how many diplomats would be expelled from the Bogota embassy but said the expulsion would be communicated to Argentina through “diplomatic channels”.

In January, Colombia recalled its ambassador to Argentina after similar comments from Milei tagged Gustavo a “murderous communist who is sinking Colombia”.

Colombian President Gustavo Petro is a former member of a rebel movement [File: Ivan Valencia/AP]

Petro, Colombia’s first left-wing president, is a former member of the long-demobilised M-19 rebel movement. Milei was referring to Petro’s armed group past in the CNN interview.

Relations between Colombia and Argentina have been historically stable, but have been deteriorating since Milei was elected to office last November in a surprise vote after he had promised action on radical promises like abolishing the central bank and severely slashing public spending.

The 53-year-old’s abrasive style of politics has drawn comparisons with former US President Donald Trump. As a candidate, he revealed conservative positions on social issues, opposing abortion and sex education, and railed against political correctness.

Milei also equated socialists with “human excrement” while speaking on local media stations.

Petro at the time compared the remarks with those of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and described Milei’s election victory as a “sad moment for Latin America”.

Milei came to power amid an economic crisis in Argentina with inflation running at more than 200 percent per annum and poverty affecting more than 40 percent of the population.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies