The Ukrainian war is the elephant in the room. Formally, it is not part of the agenda of the Ibero-American summit that is being held this Friday and Saturday in Dominican Republic. Nor in the previous Business Meeting that closes this Friday. But without being there will condition everything.
Spain sends its highest representation to this forum. The King closes the business meeting. And he participates in the plenary session of the Heads of State and Government, where the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, will also attend, who will arrive directly from the European Council held in Brussels.
In the Government they recognize that “the war in Ukraine is going to fly over” the debates, but that it is not on the agenda. The increase in prices, raw materials or increases in interest rates by the United States mean that, although geographically distant, Latin America is “a region greatly affected by the consequences of the war.” In a region that is also experiencing specific pockets of instability.
In La Moncloa they see it as a “very propitious” appointment in a changing international context in which the President of the Government is going to defend “a more strategic EU-Ibero-American relationship”, in which Spain wants to play a more relevant role. That is the focus that Moncloa wants to give to a summit that in the official formalism will adopt an Ibero-American environmental charter, a digital rights charter or will address issues related to food security.
Spain believes that in parallel to the official work of the summit, it is important that Latin America can have a role in the resolution of the Ukrainian war. The countries of the region express greater discomfort than the Europeans in taking a position, although the Government recalls that “Latin America has voted almost as a bloc in the United Nations, voting in favor of Ukraine and in defense of the United Nations order they are very aligned ». A different issue is that, government sources explain, “when you go down to details there is some resistance to a very clear position for a tradition of non-interference in the internal affairs of third parties.”
And “although the summit is not about Ukraine”, in the Government they are not going to ignore the issue because “the peace plan is a current issue” and “we have to make an effort to explain the reasons for Ukraine to the rest of the world and not allow the Russian narrative to permeate.”
In addition to seeing to what extent Ukraine penetrates the debates, the other focus of great interest will be in the relations between the leaders and what the notable absences that are going to occur express. The most notorious is that of the president of Brazil, Lula Da Silva, who between March 26 and 31 will be on an official visit to China. In the Government of Spain they had in mind having reserved time for a meeting between Sánchez and Lula if the Brazilian president had attended. Sánchez will meet with the presidents of Chile and Costa Rica. It is taken for granted that throughout the sessions other meetings will be improvised. For example with the Argentine president, Alberto Fernandez.
Nor will the Mexican president be there, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. The “very close” relationship between the two countries is trying to protect from diplomatic disagreements due to the demonstrations by López Obrador since he demanded that Felipe VI apologize “for the abuses of the conquest.” Then the Mexican president spoke of “a pause” in relations between the two countries. And he continued with his attacks on the King and on Spanish companies. At the end of last year, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had to issue a statement emphatically rejecting the attitude of López Obrador.
The presence that seemed safe on this occasion was that of the Venezuelan Nicolas Maduro. In La Moncloa they report that the latest information in this regard is not clear. But in any case, no meeting with the Venezuelan president has been planned. The war in Ukraine and the change in the energy perspective with respect to Russia reopened the doors of international order for Maduro. At the end of last year, the Government approved the appointment of a new ambassador in Venezuela after two years without a representative. Spain withdrew its ambassador in Caracas in protest of the December 2020 parliamentary elections, a call that the Spanish government did not recognize due to the numerous irregularities that occurred. Something that was added to the 2018 presidential process.
The paradigm shift in relation to Venezuela compared to the Ibero-American summit two years ago in Andorra is total. So, in a forum heavily marked by the pandemic and the so-called vaccine diplomacy, there were several voices that questioned the legitimacy of Maduro. Starting with the then president of Colombia, Iván Duque. The then leaders of Peru, Uruguay and Ecuador accompanied the criticism. While in defense of Caracas only Cuba and Nicaragua spoke.
Only two years later everything is very different. The change in Colombia in favor of Gustavo Petro It’s fundamental. But also the new presidents of Brazil, Chile, Honduras or Peru draw a much kinder climate for the interests of Caracas.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism