A role reversal as former colonies meet former colonists at Ibero-American summit
Spain and Portugal, once the heavy hitters in the annual meeting of Iberian and Latin American nations, are now looking to their one-time colonies for help amid their debt crisis.
On Friday in the historic Spanish port city of Cádiz, the leaders of Spain, Portugal, and Latin American nations gathered for the 22nd annual Ibero-American summit. But unlike past meetings, the European nations are no longer running the show: now the former colonists are seeking help from their empowered cousins.Skip to next paragraph
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The tables have turned since the 2007 edition, when King Juan Carlos infamously said “Why don’t you be quiet” to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in a moment which came to represent Spain’s arrogance and Latin American muscle flexing. Today, Spain and Portugal are in dire economic shape and will remain crippled for at least another couple of years, if not more.
In contrast, Latin America is consolidating its political and economic transition toward stability, despite strong headwind from the global slowdown. Eighteen heads of state will attend, including economic powerhouses Brazil and Mexico, as well as the rising emerging powers Chile, Colombia, and Peru.
The main goal of the summit is to “propel renewed relations,” Prince Felipe, Spanish heir to the throne, said recently, echoing the message pushed by organizers. Relations can be transformed by strengthening ties already in place and by “opening new frontiers that are good in this juncture that Spain and Portugal are living,” said Enrique Iglesias, the Ibero-American secretary general, in a Q&A published in Spanish media this week.
Spanish press described it more succinctly as the country seeking a “lifejacket” from Latin America.
The economic imperative
Spain’s economy has been free-falling since the crisis began in 2007, only managing to pull off discreet growth in 2011. Record unemployment tops 25 percent and continues to rise, and most forecasts expect further acute economic contraction in 2012 and 2013, with only modest recovery thereafter.