With an increasingly riotous panorama to the east, where the flames of the Ukrainian war and the breath of Chinese mightEurope seeks an alternative horizon on the other side of the Atlantic with a new edition of the Ibero-American Summit, which started this Friday in Santo Domingo.
The Dominican capital is until Sunday the scene of a forum that returns to face-to-face after the pandemic and for which 17 heads of state and government confirmed their attendance.
It is the twenty-eighth installment of a summit that started in 1991 promoted by Spanish diplomacy. With the years, Spain has emerged as the state of the European Union with the greatest role in the relations of the community bloc with Latin America.
Proof of the importance that Madrid attaches to this event is the high profile of its delegation, which will be headed by the King Felipe VIand in which will be the President of the Government, Pedro Sanchezand his Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jose Manuel Albares. Another Spaniard, the high representative of the European Union for EU Foreign Policy, is the guest of honor at the summit.
About to assume the rotating presidency of the Union, Spain is trying to make the final communiqué refer to the war in Ukraine and call on Russia to stop its aggression against that country, shortly after learning of the peace proposal presented by the Chinese president, Xi Jinpingand his last meeting with the Russian president Vladimir Putinwhich have been received with suspicion in the West.
The Spanish position was summed up by Albares in a recent meeting with journalists: “We not only defend the territorial integrity and sovereignty of a country, but also the most basic principles of the United Nations charter.”
But Ukraine is an issue that is seen differently in Latin America. Madrid has presented various proposals to include the subject in the final communiqué without an understanding being glimpsed for now.
Countries like Cuba and Venezuela are staunch allies of Moscowwhich has spent years arming and financing its autocrats, and in others, such as Mexico, a more nuanced vision prevails and forceful pronouncements condemning Russian military intervention are avoided.
On the other hand, as the influence of the United States has diminished in a region that it once considered its backyard, China has been establishing itself as an investor and reference power, which makes it difficult for Ibero-American countries to adopt positions that could antagonize Beijing. The most recent example has been given by the president of Honduras, Xiomara Castrowho announced on March 15 the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with China after years in which his country was one of the fourteen in the world that recognized Taiwan’s sovereignty.
The long shadow of Beijing is also felt at the Summit due to one of its most notable absences, that of the President of Brazil, Luiz Inazio Lula da Silva. Lula is precisely in Beijingwhere he had scheduled a key trip for the economic interests of his country and the reconfiguration of Brazilian foreign relations after the presidency of Jair Bolsonaro.
In addition to Spain, the EU will be represented by Portugal, but it is not clear that the weight of both is enough for the European theses to be adopted without nuances, so the agenda of the summit necessarily opens up to other issues.
Like any international meeting worth its salt these days, climate change is among the most prominent, but the American countries will also want other priority and urgent issues for them to be addressed, such as immigration, financial security and international trade.
Latin America was one of the countries that suffered the most in economic terms from the covid blow and all the reports from international financial organizations indicate that it needs to accelerate its growth to correct some of the historical imbalances in the regionTherefore, much more than speeches and promises, what their governments are eager to receive are investments. In this field, a regional forum promoted by Spain finds it difficult to compete with the superpowers, which has been one of its problems since it was created. And the The European Union, traditionally lacking a coherent and firm foreign policy, has never come up with a well-financed scheme to demonstrate that the relationship with Ibero-America is indeed preferential.
Another of the great absentees from the event is the Mexican president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. AMLO is still waiting for the King of Spain to apologize for the Spanish conquest of America and this time he has not even seen fit to send his Foreign Minister. Mexico is thus represented by an undersecretary. Without those of Brazil or Mexico, The Summit is not represented by the presidents of the two largest economies in the region.
Nor is the president of Peru, Dina Boluarte. Criticized by several Latin American leftist governments for its handling of the protests after the fall of its predecessor, Pedro Castillowhich left dozens dead, according to complaints about shots from public forces, Boluarte has preferred to stay in Lima.
The arrival of other prominent regional leaders was expected, such as the Colombian Gustavo Petro or the Chilean gabriel boric. He lands in Santo Domingo with the hope of achieving some cooperation in bilateral meetings and on the margins of the summit to curb what has become one of the main problems of his government, irregular immigration from other countries in the region. towards Chile.