Muaqqat also brought in Palestinian activists to talk about the difficulties of life in the Gaza Strip. And when he could, he buttonholed Argentine officials to make sure they got the Palestinian position on such prickly issues as the building of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories.
It was a strategy Palestinian diplomats repeated across the continent last year, taking advantage of the region's growing economic ties to the Arab world and eagerness to demonstrate its independence from Israel's powerful ally, the United States.
"We were concentrated on giving as much significance to this region, South America," said Muaqqat, 57, a diplomat in the region for 32 years. "It had an effect. They saw the whole panorama."
The effort by a small but active group of diplomats demonstrated the importance Palestinian leaders have placed on winning recognition of an independent state. With peace talks with Israel frozen, the Palestinian Authority is now focusing on using the momentum from South America, where eight countries recognized Palestinian statehood in December and January, to win recognition in Europe. Palestinian diplomats contend that would provide a critical mass of support to propel the U.N. General Assembly to offer recognition later this year.
In interviews, top Israeli diplomats played down the significance of the South American gestures, calling them largely symbolic. Far from pressuring Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's government, they said, the recognitions instead demonstrated that the Palestinians were foregoing peace talks.
"If they want something to happen," said Daniel Gazit, the Israeli ambassador in Buenos Aires, "they have to come back to the negotiating table."
Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said it was "very easy for the Palestinians" to win support from countries that have had little influence in that region. "I don't think it's accidental that they went and started in Latin America - as far away a place as possible, not just away proximity-wise, geographically, but also far away politically," he said.
Yet, Israel vigorously tried to forestall countries from joining Brazil and Argentina, both of which recognized an independent Palestine in December. Ayalon said he worked the phones, calling Latin American diplomats, and Netanyahu phoned Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, whose center-right government is close to Washington.