The 2012 Iberoamerican Summit is due to get underway on Friday in Cádiz with host Spain at the forefront as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy will try to seek Latin American investors for his country in an effort to help his government emerge from the ongoing crisis.
This will be the third time Spain plays host to the annual summit of mostly Latin American and Caribbean leaders. And it is expected that it will be the first time that the Spanish government actively pushes South and Central American nations — which have not been crippled by the world economic crisis — to invest in Spain.
In the past, Spain has been a big investor in Latin America and “is responsible for that growth process in the region,” explained Jaime García-Legaz, secretary of state for commerce. Spain has “a cheap and attractive economy” for those countries that have now become “transmission beacons for investments,” he added.
The two-day summit also coincides with the bicentennial celebrations of the liberal 1812 Spanish Constitution, popularly known as “La Pepa.”
King Juan Carlos and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy will preside over the summit. The prime minister will meet privately with different regional leaders to give them an overview of the euro-zone crisis, Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo said. European Commission President José Manuel Durão Barroso and Catherine Ashton, the EU´s top foreign affairs official, are also expected to join the summit.
The presidents of Cuba, Venezuela, Argentina, Guatemala, Paraguay and Uruguay have announced that they won’t attend, sending top government representatives instead. In the case of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the Argentinean leader, who has been at odds with the Spanish government since her government nationalized Repsol’s YPF affiliate in May, excused herself on doctor’s orders after suffering a hypertension bout. Uruguayan President José Mujica also announced that he won’t be attending because of health reasons.
As with all past summits, controversy is expected. The Spanish terrorism victims group Covite has announced that it will hold a demonstration to demand that the Venezuelan government stop protecting and harboring known ETA terrorists. Consuelo Ordóñez, Covite spokeswoman and the sister of slain Popular Party (PP) councilor Gregorio Ordóñez, said that she has pressed the Spanish government to formally demand in the next two days the handover of Arturo Cubillas Fontán, an ETA terrorist who is wanted by the High Court but who has become a mid-level official in the Chávez government.
Arriving with his own agenda will be Bolivian President Evo Morales, who will push for a legalization of the coca leaf — a major agricultural product for his country — and demand that Chile negotiate the creation of a Bolivian outlet to the Pacific Ocean in an effort to resolve a 130-year-old territorial dispute.
In 2007 the entire event, held in Chile, was overshadowed by the now-famous exchange between Chávez and then-Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero in which the king interrupted and told the Venezuelan leader: “Why don't you just shut up!” The two have since smoothed things over. In November 1997, security was beefed up on the Venezuelan resort island of Margarita after the US Coast Guard picked up a group of elderly Cuban exiles off the coast of Puerto Rico who were traveling on a 12-meter cabin cruiser on their way to the summit to try to assassinate then-Cuban President Fidel Castro. The four were later acquitted by a US District Court jury.
In 1992, Spain hosted the second-ever held Iberoamerican Summit in Madrid. The first summit was held the year before in Guadalajara, Mexico.