Argentina and Colombia avert a diplomatic crisis, downplaying their presidents’ war of words

BUENOS AIRES (AP) — Argentina and Colombia have agreed to end a diplomatic spat that escalated over right-wing Argentine President Javier Milei’s visceral attack on his leftist counterpart in Colombia last week, prompting the country to order the expulsion of Argentine diplomats.

In a joint statement late Sunday, the foreign ministries of the two Latin American nations said they “have taken concrete steps to overcome any differences and strengthen this relationship.”

Colombia said its ambassador that it had summoned from Buenos Aires would return there, and the Argentine government said its foreign minister would visit Bogota. Colombia also stepped back from its threat to expel Argentine diplomats, saying it would approve Argentina’s newly appointed ambassador.

Tensions between Argentina’s Milei and Colombian President Gustavo Petro have repeatedly erupted into bitter quarrels since Milei, a brash right-wing economist and former TV personality, burst onto the world stage last year. Past sharp exchanges include Milei calling Petro “a murderous communist,” and describing socialists as “human excrement.” Petro retorted that “this is what Hitler said.”

This time, the contentious war of words between the populist presidents began with Milei branding Petro a “terrorist murderer” in an interview last week with CNN, a reference to Petro’s past as a member of a left-wing guerrilla group. In response, Petro accused Milei on social media of isolating Argentina diplomatically and increasing its poverty rate with his libertarian policies.

Milei and Petro come from opposite political poles. Petro won the presidency with pledges to create social programs to aid Colombia’s long-neglected poor, while Milei — a self-described anarcho-capitalist — promised to slash government spending while eliminating ministries and costly programs as a means to rein in triple-digit inflation.

Yet both leaders rocketed to power with promises of radical change stemming from voters’ frustration with establishments that they say long have failed to address deep-rooted poverty and inequality.

Copyright © 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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