Nineteen Latin American nations, plus Spain, Portugal and Andorra, sent high-level representatives to Salamanca, Spain, Oct. 14-15. The occasion was the 15th Ibero-American Summit.

Cuba figured significantly in the proceedings. Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque, head of the Cuban delegation, remarked to journalists that Latin American integration is a prerequisite for Ibero-American Summit gatherings to be useful. He was referring to growing Latin American support for the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), led by Venezuela and Cuba.

Pérez Roque pointed out the contradictory nature of Spanish and Portuguese participation in the summit. He suggested that, as members of the European Union, they represent financial and business interests that in the neoliberal era have consigned half the Latin American population to poverty. At the same time, he credited the government of Spain under socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero for laudable openness and sensitivity to the needs of Latin America, in sharp distinction to his predecessor, José María Aznar.

The Cuban foreign minister credited Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for giving high visibility to the notion that economic justice and social development are impossible under the present international economic order. Pérez Roque said he was pleased that none of the heads of state or foreign ministers on hand expressed support for neoliberalism or privatization.

On Oct. 14, as summit delegates conferred at the Hostel Fonseca, the so-called Salamanca Forum took place in the streets. Hundreds of Spanish and Portuguese activists marched in the rain in solidarity with Cuba and Venezuela. Later, forum spokespersons joined Cuban journalists in denouncing the right-wing city government of Salamanca for attempting to derail the protest demonstration.

Cuba’s friends at the summit had cause to celebrate. The U.S. Embassy in Madrid had pressed the participants to drop any references to U.S. economic sanctions against Cuba, particularly in view of the previous summit’s denunciation of the anti-Cuba Helms-Burton law. As the futility of the U.S. plea became obvious, the embassy urged the meeting to leave out, as always, the word “blockade.”

But the 15th Summit passed a resolution that read: “We ask in particular that the U.S. government immediately withhold the application of measures adopted the last two years with the object of strengthening and deepening the impact of its politics of economic, commercial, and financial blockade of Cuba.”

In addition, the summit resolved that the U.S. government should extradite the terrorist Luis Posada Carriles to Venezuela. Posada escaped from jail in Venezuela in 1985 where he had been held for his part in planning the destruction in 1976 of an in-flight Cuban airliner. The bombing caused the deaths of 73 people. He is currently in U.S. custody.

One of the priorities of Spanish government, host of this year’s summit, had been to create a mechanism for implementing the group’s agenda between meetings. The 15th Summit complied by establishing the Ibero-American General Secretariat. Enrique Iglesias was named director.

At a news conference, Iglesias indicated that his office would deal particularly with the problem of cross-border migrations, identified by Rodríguez Zapatero of Spain as highly significant for all 22 Ibero-American nations.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the first top UN official to attend an Ibero-American Summit, noted the “obstinate persistence” of inequality and marginalization that has led to a generalized lack of confidence in the ability of governments to respond to the needs of people in the throes of poverty.

Commentary surrounding the summit centered on the discrepancy between declarations of good intentions and the reality of mass suffering, especially in Latin America. An editorial appearing in the Mexican daily La Jornada Oct.16, for example, said such summit meetings are irrelevant to solving problems of human rights violations, environmental deterioration and generalized instability.

The editorial also decried the meeting’s blind eye to demands from international financial institutions for “structural adjustment and economic stabilization.” It suggested that these policies “go hand in hand with increasing economic interventionism on the part of Spain and the United States.”

The summit was marked by heavy security. During the proceedings, eight fighter planes and two helicopters circled overhead. About 2,800 troops, a Hawk missile battery, and portable missile units were also on hand. The huge police presence appeared to supplant the civilian population of the central city.