A diplomatic crisis has emerged between Colombia and Argentina following remarks made by Argentine President Javier Milei, in which he labeled the Colombian leader as a ‘murderous communist.’ The contentious adjectives were voiced by the Argentinian head of state during a CNN interview with Colombian journalist Ángela Janiot.
In a conversation regarding various international political leaders, President Milei, known for his verbal excesses, unabashedly attacked President Petro. As a response, Colombia recalled its ambassador in Buenos Aires, Camilo Romero, for consultations.
In a similar context, Milei characterized former US President Donald Trump as ‘one of the leaders advocating for freedom against global socialism’.
Colombia recalls its ambassador for consultations
The recall of Camilo Romero, the Colombian ambassador in Buenos Aires, represents the most forceful diplomatic protest against the Argentinean president’s remarks about Colombia’s president.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs strongly protests against the disrespectful and irresponsible statements made by the President of the Argentine Republic, Mr. Javier Milei. These remarks were directed against President Gustavo Petro during an interview with journalist Ángela Patricia Janiot, which was broadcast on 25 January,” stated the Colombian Foreign Ministry.
The Colombian government refutes the statement, viewing it as a disparagement of the honor of the president, who has been democratically and legitimately elected. The statement further notes that “the words of President Milei […]disregard and violate the longstanding bonds of friendship, understanding, and cooperation between Colombia and Argentina, bonds that have been strengthened over two centuries.”
The Milei style
Javier Milei, who has been the President of Argentina for less than 50 days, won an election set against a backdrop of rampant inflation and a deep-seated economic crisis. He arrived with promises to redirect the situation through ultra-liberal measures. These measures are aimed at reducing the state, which Milei considers an obstacle to economic fluidity, to its most minimal expression.
Alongside his controversial economic policies, already challenged by segments of the Argentinian population through a call for a general strike this week, the politician is also known for his verbal excesses against opponents and his descriptions of left-wing leaders and supporters.
Indiscriminately labeling everyone as ‘communists,’ regardless of their actual ideological alignment, this individual frequently pairs such descriptions with insults, favoring playground politics and showing little regard for diplomatic decorum.
In fact, it was precisely this direct, blunt and populist style that took this economist from being an anti-establishment opinionator on television to the Casa Rosada in Buenos Aires.
“Social justice is violent”
Milei challenges fundamental principles espoused by politicians like Gustavo Petro. In this context, the Argentinean economist stated, ‘Social justice is not fair; it is violent. The state is funded through taxes, which are collected coercively. The higher the tax burden, the greater the coercion and the lesser the freedom.’
Today, Javier Milei and Gustavo Petro represent diametrically opposed approaches to understanding politics in Latin America. Petro achieved a historic milestone, becoming Colombia’s first left-wing president in two centuries of republican history. In contrast, Javier Milei signifies a departure from traditional Argentine politics.This development represents a shift away from Peronism and the traditional right, marked by the confrontational positions and outspoken rhetoric of a politician akin to leaders such as Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro.
Petro’s programme in Colombia follows the traditional left-wing line of giving a pre-eminent role to the state and public management of resources. On the other hand, Milei’s Argentina wants to eliminate the state from any managerial or administrative role, opting for private management.
Disagreements between the two presidents have persisted since before Milei assumed the presidency in Argentina. Clashes erupted over Milei’s comments about Pope Francis, whom he labeled a ‘representative of the devil.’ Additionally, Petro did not attend Milei’s inauguration ceremony in December. The controversy, fueled by their exchanges on social networks, has been a boon for the media and extreme ideological influencers online.
The controversy and misunderstandings between the two countries seem far from over.