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July 20, 2016 5:01 am

Expert: Paraguayan President’s Visit to Israel ‘Latest Step in New Stage’ of Mutual Ties in Changing Latin America

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes. Photo: Kobi Gideon/GPO.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes. Photo: Kobi Gideon/GPO.

The visit of the president of Paraguay to Israel constitutes great progress in the bolstering of ties with a country that has proven itself to be an exceptional ally, an expert in Israel-Latin American relations told The Algemeiner on Tuesday.

Leopoldo Martinez, the Latin America director at the Israel Allies Foundation — which aims to mobilize political support for Israel by building pro-Israel caucuses inside legislative bodies around the world — said that President Horacio Cartes’s visit signals “the latest step in a new stage to empower commercial and diplomatic relations between the two countries.”

“Paraguay is one of Israel’s best Latin American allies, and Israel needs to continue developing this relationship. Now, more than ever, Israel needs to take advantage of the political changes happening in Latin America, where it can find increased support in the region,” Martinez said.

Cartes recently completed a three-day trip to Israel — which began on Sunday and ended Tuesday — where he met with high-level officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin and Opposition leader Isaac Herzog. Cartes is the first Paraguayan president to visit Israel.

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While meeting with Cartes on Monday, Rivlin stated, “Paraguay has been and remains a true friend of Israel since the foundation of the state of Israel, and even before when it voted in favor of the establishment of Israel on the 29th of November, 1947. We are pleased to see the strengthening of ties between our countries, and I hope that your visit here will serve to further deepen these good relations.”

In response, Cartes said, “This is an emotional and historic visit for all of us, and we are excited and delighted to visit Israel, a friend of Paraguay. My visit is an opportunity to strengthen the ties between us which go back to the birth of Israel, yet are no less thanks to the values we share.”

According to Martinez, Cartes “has always been a strong ally to Israel and greatly admires Israel.” Paraguay, under the leadership of Cartes, has also come to Israel’s defense during crucial times.

“The government of Paraguay stood by Israel during Operation Protective Edge, at a time when Israel was criticized by many countries. This is very significant, because in 2014, during the Gaza conflict, the Common Southern Market bloc (MERCOSUR) met in Caracas, Venezuela. During that meeting, delegates tried to pass an anti-Israel declaration,” Martinez told The Algemeiner. “Cartes refused to sign the document. The resolution was passed through, despite not having the approval of Cartes. But this goes to show his commitment to Israel, even if he is the only Israel ally in the room.”

Cartes’s visit is already seeing the strengthening of ties between the two nations. Following a meeting with Netanyahu on Tuesday, both leaders ordered their respective ministers and institutions to expand economic ties, trade relations, investments and cooperation.

“Israel already maintains close cooperation with Paraguay in the areas of water, agriculture and hydraulic technology,” Martinez said. “It only seems fitting that they would seek to expand ties in other areas.”

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