Nicolás Maduro sweeps everything. The Venezuelan president, repudiated by many of the Latin American countries, will be the main protagonist of an Ibero-American summit, the twenty-seventh, very atypical. The event, organized this year by Andorra, the small country in the Pyrenees whose banks have been a refuge for large opaque fortunes not only Spanish but also Latin American, as has been seen recently with several scandals in Mexico, Venezuela or Argentina, is largely telematics. Only the heads of government or state of Spain, Portugal, the Dominican Republic and Guatemala will be in Andorra. The rest will enter by videoconference. And the central issue of the summit is the pandemic and its devastating effects in Latin America, which with 9% of the world population has 30% of those killed by covid, according to data from the Spanish Government. But Maduro, who has never participated in an Ibero-American summit and has always despised this body – in 2016 he gave a resounding sit-in in Cartagena de Indias (Colombia), after ensuring that he was going and even pretending that his plane had departed from Caracas – has decided this time to be present to claim his legitimacy as president, which several countries reject.
Maduro’s invitation is already controversial in itself, because some countries believe that Juan Guaidó, the leader that Europe and the United States endorsed as interim president of the country, should have been summoned, although since the Venezuelan elections last December, the EU has withdrawn this recognition. Guaidó has been losing weight in recent months and Andorra, the organizing country, has decided to apply the UN criteria, which recognizes Maduro as president, and invite him. The Venezuelan leader will speak last Wednesday – for the V of Venezuela – but there is no doubt that he will be the protagonist because many others will protest his presence and he will defend himself. The president of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel, will also be released at these summits, reinforced after the final departure from the scene of Raúl Castro. Díaz-Canel will undoubtedly make a common front with Maduro.
It will not be the only one, because recent political changes have made countries like Argentina or Bolivia now in the hands of governments that defend the legitimacy of Hugo Chávez’s political heir. Spain, which is not an organizer but always has a prominent role in these summits – King Felipe VI and President Pedro Sánchez attend – tries to place itself on the sidelines of the decision to invite Maduro, and insists that it is a matter of the presidency Andorran, but in recent months the departure of Guaidó by the socialist government has been evident. Spanish Executive sources also point out that, no matter how much the EU does not recognize him, Maduro directs de facto the country and is the one who is making the decisions to fight the pandemic. They also believe that it is important to maintain the idea that the Ibero-American summits are the only forum where all leaders participate, unlike CELAC or the OAS, and that it is better to maintain an open discussion due to many differences. The only leader who has openly declined to participate is Brazilian Jair Bolsonaro.
The organization will try to take the summit in other directions, especially economic ones. In Latin America, the COVID crisis has caused an 8% drop in GDP, a 13% drop in exports, the death of 2.7 million small businesses, and the creation of 78 million new poor people. There is talk of a 30-year setback. Therefore, the summit will focus on establishing international collaboration systems so that the vaccine reaches all countries, especially the poorest. The differences in the region are enormous. While Chile is about 10 weeks away from vaccinating its entire population, in Venezuela at the current rate it would take several years. That is why the summit intends to promote the Covax mechanism, promoted by the UN to guarantee an equitable distribution of vaccines, and other solutions so that they reach the poorest countries.
Sánchez has prepared for this Wednesday, at the summit, an announcement of a solidarity mechanism of Spain with the vaccination of Latin American countries. The two Latin American presidents present in Andorra, Eduardo Giammattei, president of Guatemala, and Luis Abinader, of the Dominican Republic, openly described the operation of Covax as a “failure” and demanded in a business forum prior to the summit solidarity plans between the countries that have more vaccines and those with the most access difficulties. Others who entered by videoconference, such as that of Costa Rica, Carlos Alvarado, or that of Chile, Sebastián Piñera, also influenced the enormous inequality in vaccines. “There is an abysmal numerical inequality in access. There will be no global security until we are all vaccinated, ”Alvarado recalled. Meanwhile, Sánchez, the Portuguese Antonio Costa and the French Emmanuel Macron, who also participated in meetings prior to the summit via telematics, also bet on that solidarity but spoke from a different perspective than that of Latin Americans who, with the exception of the Chilean, suffer a dramatic lack of vaccines and a devastating economic crisis.
The creation of an Ibero-American epidemiological observatory will also be approved at the summit. In addition, the IMF will be pressured to facilitate access to financing also to middle-income countries such as Latin America, and a “talent mobility” mechanism will be established to facilitate the circulation of entrepreneurs, students and postgraduates throughout the Ibero-American community.
Maduro tries with his participation in this summit to return to the international scene at a time of greatest need. The Venezuelan president has made diplomatic tensions a permanent campaign instrument to claim the sovereignty of Venezuela and denounce international pressure, especially from Washington and Brussels, but at the same time tries to break the deep isolation of the country. Since 2016, when Maduro was about to participate in an Ibero-American summit, the social and political crisis that has forced the exodus of more than five million Venezuelans, according to United Nations calculations, has not stopped worsening. The pandemic gave him the last straw. Maduro has the political support of China, Russia, Iran and Turkey, which has proven insufficient to get out of the economic quagmire, and with his intervention at the Andorran summit, scheduled for Wednesday, he seeks to leave a mark, however small or symbolic. whatever, in the international community.
After a long absence from multilateral forums, the Venezuelan president will denounce the sanctions that corner his Government, the blocking of assets of the regime frozen in foreign banks and the problems of access to vaccines against covid-19. He will do so by addressing by videoconference the Ibero-American leaders gathered in the Principality, whose justice has for years been investigating the corrupt plot of Chavista leaders responsible for the millionaire looting of PDVSA, the state oil company. And he will do so with a trail of diplomatic clashes behind him. The most recent ones have to do with Spain and the European Union. Maduro threatened in February to “thoroughly review the relationship” with Madrid after the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Arancha González Laya, visited the Colombian-Venezuelan border to learn first-hand about the drama of the migrants. Days earlier, Caracas had ordered the expulsion of the EU ambassador in response to a new package of sanctions.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza anticipated the general lines of Maduro’s intervention during the preparatory meeting of Foreign Ministers held last week. “It is essential to change the system,” summarized the Chavista leader. Behind that pronouncement is the counterattack planned by the president, which will consist of charging against “the blockade, the illegal and unilateral coercive measures”, in reference to the sanctions. A message also addressed to the new Joe Biden Administration, which despite suggesting a change of approach with Venezuela and Cuba has hinted that the turn will be gradual.
The participation of the Bolivarian leader in the Andorra meeting activated the opposition diplomatic machinery weeks ago, which tried to prevent what for Juan Guaidó represents an important symbolic blow. Although the European Union has stopped formally recognizing him as interim president, the United States and many of the countries in the region still grant him that position. The entire strategy of the opposition leader, designed by Leopoldo López, has focused on demonstrating his legitimacy against Maduro. But this de facto maintains the power and control of the springs of the State. And he will take advantage of the summit to vindicate himself, although he will find the categorical rejection of other presidents.
Covid outbreak at the summit hotel
The Ibero-American summit focused on the reaction to the covid has started with a delicate news, which according to the organization is resolved and will not affect its development. A dozen workers from the group of hotels where the summit is held and both the participants and their delegates and the journalists are staying, Sport de Soldeu, a ski resort in Andorra, tested positive for coronavirus just one day before the for the conclave to begin and the presidents and journalists to arrive. The Government of Andorra has confirmed this outbreak, although it assures that it is under control because the group of workers underwent the test before joining work – the hotels were closed at the end of the season and due to the situation of the pandemic – and They isolated as soon as the positive result arrived, so the outbreak does not have to affect the participants at the summit, who arrived the day after it was detected. In any case, the news had a strong impact on the participants, although for the moment it has not altered the work.
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