Spain asks Paraguay to stay away from Ibero summit to stave off boycott

Madrid diplomats work quietly to urge Argentina's leader to come to Cádiz

The king kisses the hand of President Fernández de Kirchner at a past summit in Mar del Plata.
The king kisses the hand of President Fernández de Kirchner at a past summit in Mar del Plata.EFE

Spain has asked Paraguay not to attend the upcoming Iberoamerican Summit in Cádiz to avoid igniting a boycott of regional leaders who are still annoyed at the Andean country for its fast-track impeachment this summer of President Fernando Lugo, the Paraguayan foreign minister revealed on Tuesday.

Jesús Gracia Aldaz, the Spanish secretary of state for Iberoamerican affairs, secretly traveled to Asunción on September 12 to meet with Foreign Minister José Félix Fernández Estigarribia to expound Spain's argument as to why Paraguay should stay away. "He explained to me the current situation in Spain, and that they consider this to be a very important summit," said Estigarribia in a radio interview that was published Wednesday in the Asunción daily ABC Color.

"He told me that unfortunately the success of summits is often not measured by the results of the deliberations, but instead by the number of presidents who participate."

Many South American leaders have called back their ambassadors from Paraguay after the Senate in June impeached Lugo in proceedings that many governments called unfair. Since Lugo was thrown out and a new government headed by Federico Franco took office, Paraguay has also been suspended from several regional groups, including the Mercosur trading bloc. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is due to meet Franco at next week's UN General Assembly.

As part of their strategy to ensure the summit's success, Spanish diplomats have for months been working behind the scenes to seek a warming of Argentinean bilateral relations, which were chilled earlier this year with the nationalization of Repsol's 51-percent stake in its YPF affiliate by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner's government.

Spain insists that Argentina pay compensation to energy giant Repsol

But at the same time, Spain continues to insist that Argentina compensate the Spanish energy giant. Discussions over the matter will take place on October 8 at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Paris, which could also endanger Fernandez de Kirchner's presence at the summit to be held November 16-17.

"We know that the Argentinean government is very nervous about this upcoming meeting," said sources in Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's office. The Argentinean leader has said that her country's Court of Audits will determine the final compensation, but that it won't be the $10 billion Repsol is asking for.

When it comes to confirming the final guest list, Spanish officials, however, have little room for negotiations. The Repsol dispute has not been resolved, and Fernández de Kirchner had said she won't participate in any event where Paraguayan President Franco is invited.

Diplomats fear that if Fernández de Kirchner decides not to attend, her leftist allies in the region will also follow suit, including Venezuela's Hugo Chávez, Ecuador's Rafael Correa and Bolivia's Evo Morales.

The Iberoamerican Summit will be an important international showcase for Rajoy, his first regional meet as a host. The event will also coincide with the bicentennial celebrations of the first Spanish Constitution. Diplomats said that King Juan Carlos, if needed, would call Fernández de Kirchner himself to convince her to attend. Despite the Repsol dispute, the two remain close.

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