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Ibero-American Summit: new lows

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The most important decision of the 2013 Ibero-American Summit, held earlier this month in Panama, may have been to hold summits every second year, instead of annually.

Fewer than half of the heads of state of member states attended the latest forum, the lowest percentage since the program started in 1991.

Members include the countries of Latin America, along with Spain and Portugal.

Summit fatigue may be one reason for the lack of interest, now that various regional programs, including the Conference of Latin American and Caribbean States, make additional demands on the time of senior officials.

Changing economic trends could be another factor, as the region’s business is strongly tied to the United States and – increasingly – Asia.

The Pacific Alliance, founded in 2011, proposes greater economic integration of countries on the west coast of Latin America, in part to facilitate trade with China and other Asian economies.

The Alliance includes Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico and Peru, while Guatemala and Panama have expressed interest in joining.

In this context, Portugal and Spain are less relevant to Latin America, especially as serious economic problems in the mother countries limit their influence abroad.

Poor attendance in Panama may also reflect irreconcilable divisions between two major groups - the Bolivarian Alliance of Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela, which favors strong state intervention in the economy - and everyone else.