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On October 28-29, 2016, Cartagena (Colombia) hosted XXV Ibero-American Summit, where the participants discussed the current political situation in the region. The discussion was mostly focused on Venezuela, whose political crisis might promote transition of the Organization of Ibero-American States to a wider scale.

 

The Ibero-American Summit has perhaps become the most politicised summit meeting of the kind in the recent years. The growing crisis in Venezuela, frightening not only the immediate neighbour states but also the ones far outside Latin America and the Caribbean, is the reason for that.

 

REUTERS/Jaime Saldarriaga
Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos (C) speaks during the 25th Ibero-American Summit in Cartagena, Colombia, October 29, 2016.

 

Even before the summit Peruvian president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski urged to put Venezuelan issue at the top of agenda, where it eventually did end up. Though it was Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro to fuel the flame first confirming his participation in the summit and later cancelling it. The country was represented by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and reportedly Nicolas Maduro’s right-hand person Delcy Rodriguez, which was treated ambiguously. The official reason for cancelling the visit was clear to everyone — the start of negotiations between Nicolas Maduro and the opposition on Sunday, October 30, 2016, aiming to level down the political heat in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. This fact still doesn’t prevent one from suspecting Nicolas Maduro of having an underlying motive not to go due to his almost open dislike of the neighbouring Colombia and its leader Juan Manuel Santos.

 

However, it’s not the reason of Maduro’s absence that matters, but the fact that Venezuelan political crisis suddenly led the Organization of Ibero-American States to a new historical dilemma. Some previous events had also made impact on it, but not as visible. On the one hand, this format was created in order to discuss purely non-political issues — education, science and culture, and possible integration in these spheres. On the other hand, these meetings and their agenda are now far beyond the initial settings. Moreover, the current issues seem to be more interesting for the heads of the Organization member states with Gibraltar legal status issue and Colombian peace process brought up to the top of agenda like the Venezuelan crisis. Does this mean the member states are ready to bring the Organization of Ibero-American States to the new level of interaction making it a political discussion platform that unites Hispanic and Portuguese speaking countries not only of the region but globally? That could be a very interesting historical case, as even 10 years ago some analysts didn't see prospects of such cooperation and were eager to give up on the Organization of Ibero-American States and its member meetings.

 

The Ibero-American States seem to have a huge potential for common development and integration, though not following the EU model. To do this, however, they need to put in efforts and political will, which might, unfortunately, sometimes be an issue for the regional players.  

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