President Horacio Cartes on Tuesday expressed his satisfaction at being the first Paraguayan head of state to visit Israel. Cartes addressed a breakfast meeting hosted by the Israel Council on Foreign Relations (ICFR) in Jerusalem. The ICFR operates under the auspices of the World Jewish Congress.
ICFR President Dan Meridor welcomed the Paraguayan leader and thanked him for his country’s outstanding record of friendship with and support for Israel.
“Don’t thank me. Don’t welcome me. I feel at home,” Cartes responded, and added, “Israel is in the heart of my country. I received many messages from Paraguayans saying ‘You are blessed. You are in Israel.’”
Cortes lamented the fact that it took so many years for a presidential visit to take place, but said: “We should look forward, not back.”
He added that Paraguay and Israel were not only business partners but shared common values as well, and that he admired the fact that Israelis had a deep sense of history from which Paraguayans could learn.
Quoting Pope Francis, Cartes said: “He who forgets his past has no history.”
He reminded the participants in the meeting that Paraguay had suffered grievous losses in its population during the Paraguayan War (1864–1870) and therefore could empathize with the destruction wrought in the Holocaust. He also recalled that Paraguay had voted in favor of the establishment of the State of Israel at the United Nations in November 1947.
The visit came in the wake of the reopening of the Israeli Embassy in Paraguay about a year ago, after a 14-year hiatus due to budgetary cuts. Paraguay has distinguished itself among South American countries by supporting Israel in the UN and other international fora.
At the World Jewish Congress Special Plenary Assembly in Buenos Aires last March, Cartes was awarded the Shalom Prize of the Latin American Jewish Congress for his contributions to building coexistence.
Photo: Andres Lacko