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  • Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes (L) shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a press conference in Jerusalem, July 19, 2016.

    Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes (L) shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a press conference in Jerusalem, July 19, 2016. | Photo: EFE

Published 19 July 2016

Paraguay and Israel are looking to expand economic and cultural cooperation, particularly in technology and agriculture.

Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes is looking to strengthen ties with Israel Tuesday during the final day of his three-day visit with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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In addition to addressing economic, social, and cultural cooperation with Netanyahu on Tuesday, Cartes also met with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Monday to discuss agreements on technology, agriculture, and education.

The Paraguayan president will also meet with opposition leader Isaac Herzog on Tuesday and visit an engineering school.

The Jerusalem Post called Cartes a “rare ally in South America,” along with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.

Cartes lauded “an exciting and historic time” for both countries and welcomed the broadened cooperation. In recent years, Paraguayan officials have heralded the South American country as the entry point for Israeli technology in Latin America, while Israeli politicians have hailed its “favorable” tax system and “stable business environment.”

But Cartes’ visit hasn’t been without controversy. The Palestine Liberation Organization slammed the Paraguayan head of state for visiting the Old City of Jerusalem in occupied Palestinian territories as part of his diplomatic agenda.

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“Our ambassador in Paraguay already made clear to the officials of that country before (Cartes’) trip that a visit to occupied Jerusalem in the context of an official visit to Israel is unacceptable,” PLO spokesperson Xavier Abu Eid told EFE. “It legitimizes the illegal Israeli annexation of east Jerusalem.”

Paraguay was among the 13 Latin American countries that voted in favor of the United Nations partition of Palestine that created the state of Israel in 1947. Six Latin American countries abstained from the vote.

The move for increased ties comes after Paraguay reopened its embassy in Tel Aviv in 2014 after shutting its doors in 2005 citing budget concerns. Israel reestablished its embassy in Asuncion after closing it in 2002.

Cartes’ campaign for president in 2013 and first 100 days in office — in the wake of the 2012 parliamentary coup against former President Fernando Lugo — were supported by the Israeli-based consulting firm 3H Global, which takes credit for helping develop the new government's plan for economic development.

Recently, the Cartes administration has been an ardent critic of Palestine-allied Venezuela, acting as the sole regional voice supporting attempts to invoke the Organization of American States' so-called 'Democratic Charter' against the South American nation.

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