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.
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But Spain’s economy is much larger and its downturn reverberates much more globally. Spain’s biggest banks and companies are already making most of their profit in Latin America rather than at home; its government is seeking, not offering, foreign investment; and perhaps most telling of all, Spaniards are increasingly migrating to Latin America, not the other way around.Skip to next paragraph
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Indeed, that is actually one of Spain’s best arguments for greater cooperation with Latin America, Mr. Iglesias said. “Now there is emigration to Latin America of qualified human capital” that the region can profit from. Additionally, “now there is capital in Latin American that can be mobilized” as investment to Spain and Portugal.
The main goal of the summit, organizers say, is to reach an agreement on how to increase multilateral cooperation of small- and medium-sized companies, which account for 95 percent of the companies on both sides of the Atlantic and for 60 percent of the labor force.
Latin America, with a population of 550 million, has made impressive strides to reduce poverty this century, down from 50 percent to around 30 percent, while middle classes have increased around 50 percent and continue to swell, according to the World Bank. Meanwhile, poverty is increasing in Spain and Portugal.
But then again, few – not even Spaniards – have high hopes of a breakthrough during the summit. The gathering is “symbolic,” said Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa on arriving.
“That’s one of the things us country leaders have to think about, that our people get tired of us attending so many summits, while they are facing so many abysses.”
Cuba’s Raul Castro and Mr. Chávez declined the invitation, as they have for years, in Chávez’s case since his faceoff with the king. Argentina, Uruguay, and Guatemala excused themselves for health reasons, although relations with Buenos Aires have been frosty ever since Argentina's expropriation of the majority stake in its biggest oil producer, YPF, owned by Spain’s Repsol.
Paraguay was politely asked not to come after South American countries, including Brazil, had threaten to boycott the summit otherwise. Most Latin American countries do not recognize Paraguay’s ruling regime after a dubious impeachment in the country that forced the former elected leader to resign.