The Miami Herald
November 25, 2001

Peru summit condemns terrorism

 Ibero-American leaders vow to fight acts, deny safe harbor


 LIMA, Peru -- Leaders of the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking world energetically condemned terrorism Saturday, pledging to fight terrorist acts and deny safe harbor to perpetrators in a statement issued at the close of their annual summit.

 The broadside against terrorism was virtually the only departure from routine at the Ibero-American Summit, an annual gathering of the heads of state from Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking countries in Latin America and the Iberian Peninsula to promote political dialogue and economic cooperation.

 As in past meetings, leaders of the 21 countries represented at the two-day meeting all signed the Declaration of Lima, a 52-point litany of good intentions ranging from respecting the rights of women to eradicating poverty. The declaration closely followed those issued in the previous 10 summits.

 But reflecting both the new order of world priorities following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, as well as Spain's own deepening problem with Basque terrorists, the leaders also issued the two-page anti-terrorist statement.

 ``We reaffirm our commitment to combat terrorist acts in all forms and manners wherever they happen and regardless of who commits them, not to offer aid or refuge to the authors, promoters or participants of terrorist activities and to strengthen national laws to avoid impunity,'' the statement said.


 As the fight against terrorism took center stage in Lima, the issue of democratic elections -- an overriding concern of past summits -- retreated into the background.

 Democratically elected presidents have assumed office in Mexico and Peru since the previous summit, held in Panama City a year ago. Cuba became more of an echo than an issue after Cuban President Fidel Castro canceled his attendance at the last moment, sending Vice President Carlos Lage in his place.

 Lage signed the terrorism declaration as did Venezuela's Hugo Chávez, who has drawn Washington's wrath over his condemnation of the U.S. bombing campaign in


 The future of Latin America was also clouded by the world economic slowdown. The first summit was held in July 1991 as the rising tide of the world economy ushered in a nearly 10-year period in which billions of dollars in investment and lending flowed into the region, and international trade soared.

 But the current international economic crisis not only is hurting the economies in the region but also dragging down the popularity of presidents. Argentina President
 Fernando de la Rúa, whose country is in virtual default on its $132 billion debt and engulfed in a nearly 4-year-old recession, has the approval of only 18 percent of

 Even presidents who recently took office have suffered. Mexican President Vicente Fox, inaugurated a year ago on a wave of optimism after he vanquished seven decades of rule by the Institutional Revolutionary Party, has seen his popularity ratings sink from around 75 percent to closer to 50 percent. Alejandro Toledo, who donned the Peruvian presidential sash in July, has seen his ratings nose-dive from 59 percent to 36 percent.

 The Ibero-American leaders called for more investment flows and asked industrialized countries to return to economic expansion. But experts say that the flagging
 fortunes of the region's elected leaders have no easy solution.


 ``There are two major problems,'' said Lima political analyst Santiago Pedraglio. ``The economic model is in crisis and -- with the exception of Chile -- the other countries are having tremendous problems that they didn't face in the 1990s when it seemed that this model was going to work.

 ``The second problem is that the political institutions are very weak and this creates a crisis,'' Pedraglio said. ``This is the context in which the presidents very rapidly lose their popularity.''

                                   © 2001