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States are expected to deepen ties and cooperation. A small protest was held against four presidents, including Guatemala's Jimmy Morales.
Foreign Affairs ministers taking part in the 26th Ibero-American Summit, which began Thursday in Guatemala, signed 20 agreements to promote the Sustainable Development Goals and strengthen Ibero-American cooperation.
The two-day summit aims to promote unity and cooperation through programs in literacy for 34 million people, education, and science. Representatives from almost all of the 22 countries in the Ibero-American region, including Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador, are attending the summit in Antigua, Guatemala.
The conference takes place under the backdrop of significant challenges for world leaders, including the rampant poverty and violence that has lead to nearly 10,000 Central American migrants to leave their countries of origin and head to places where they are mistreated and unwelcomed by official authorities like Mexico and the United States.
Regional leaders are gathering at a moment of shifting political and economic landscapes in Latin America.
Most recently, Brazil elected far-right politician Jair Bolsonaro as president and Argentina has accepted the largest International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout in history forcing it to apply austerity policies.
Sixteen presidents and four vice presidents had confirmed their participation. However, two have since withdrawn.
Colombian President Ivan Duque canceled his appearance at the conference last minute as student and union protests in Colombia were being heavily repressed by anti-riot police. Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega, who at first delayed his arrival to Friday, has also canceled his appearance altogether.
In Guatemala, a group of protesters gathered to demonstrate against the Mexican, Guatemalan, Honduran and Nicaraguan governments.
Guatemala has been under international scrutiny over President Jimmy Morales' decision to bar the head of the United Nations-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) from entering the country amid corruption allegations. In Honduras, the government of Juan Orlando Hernandez stands accused of suppressing protest against the 2017 elections, the results of which are questioned by a large part of the population.
Nicaragua's Ortega has been criticized for the government's response to anti-government protests, in which hundreds (including opposition and pro-government activists) were killed. Ortega has defended his administration's actions, arguing the U.S. was behind the protests and had financed violent right-wing groups in an attempt to overthrow him.
The Ibero-American Summit of Heads of State and Government (SEGIB) takes place every two years and began 1991. The official motto is to foster “a prosperous, inclusive and sustainable Latin America.”
According to the General Secretariat, it is the only official space for convergence and cooperation for the Ibero-American region, which includes Latin America, Spain, Portugal, and Andorra.
"We are a diverse and multicultural community of nations, people who share a rich legacy of history, migrations, culture, and languages, united by an inclusive identity, common principles and values on which this diverse and plural community is founded," the General Secretariat stated in an official communique.