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South American state takes radical action after terrorist killer slur
29 Mar 2024

Argentinian President Javier Milei has repeatedly insulted his Colombian counterpart

Colombia has expelled all Argentine diplomats from the country's embassy in Bogota after Argentinian President Javier Milei called Colombian President Gustavo Petro a "terrorist murderer."

"The Argentine president's expressions have deteriorated the confidence of our nation, in addition to offending the dignity of President Petro, who was democratically elected," the Colombian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

"In this context, the Government of Colombia orders the expulsion of diplomats from the Argentine embassy in Colombia," the statement added.

In an interview with CNN's Spanish-language service set to air this Sunday, Milei said of Petro: "You can't expect much from someone who was a terrorist murderer."

The Argentinian leader was referring to Petro's past as a left-wing guerilla fighter. He joined the 19th of April Movement (M19) as a teenager in the late 1970s, before the group embarked on a campaign of kidnapping, arms theft, land seizure, and the murder of more than a dozen politicians. Petro was arrested in 1985, tortured, and jailed for 18 months for illegal arms possession.

Petro entered politics after M19 demobilized in the late 1980s, and was elected president in 2022. A left-winger, his government has - according to Justice Minister Nestor Osuna - adopted a policy of tolerance toward small-scale cocaine production. He has also struck ceasefire deals with guerilla groups and promised welfare, labor, and environmental reforms. However, the reforms have proven costly and difficult to implement, and Petro's approval rating has fallen from 56% in 2022 to 26% at the end of last year.

Milei sits on the opposite end of the political spectrum. A libertarian right-winger, Milei was elected last year on a radical platform of economic reform. Milei has closed half of Argentina's government departments, fired tens of thousands of bureaucrats, and promised to shut down the country's central bank. While some of his policies have borne fruit (his deregulation of the housing market immediately slashed rents in Buenos Aires by 20% and the country achieved a financial surplus for the first time in more than a decade in January), inflation has soared above 250% and poverty has reached a record high.

Earlier this year, Colombia recalled its ambassador to Argentina after Milei called Petro "a communist murderer who is ruining Colombia."


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