PANAMA CITY, Oct. 18 (Xinhua) -- The 23rd Ibero-American Summit was to be held in Panama City, capital of Panama, from Friday to Saturday, under a theme featuring "The political, economic, social and cultural role of the Ibero-American Community within a new global context."
Twenty-two heads of state and government from 19 Latin American states and three Iberian Peninsula countries of Spain, Portugal and Andorra are expected to attend the annual gathering.
The summit offers a platform for discussions on "the socio- economic development of the countries, as well as the renovation of this mechanism for political dialogue and cooperation talks," said the organizers via the official website of the summit.
According to Panamanian Foreign Relations Minister Fernando Nunez Fabrega, 14 heads of state had confirmed to attend the summit as of Thursday, including Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto, Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos and Portugal's President Anibal Antonio Cavaco Silva.
Some key Latin American leaders, however, will not be attending, for a variety of reasons, including Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff, Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, Cuban leader Raul Castro, and Argentina's President Cristiana Fernandez, who is recovering from a recent surgery.
The Panamanian official said those leaders who could not attend, for specific health reasons or other issues, were sending top- level representatives.
Apart from the three Iberian Peninsula countries of Spain, Portugal and Andorra, the Latin American countries concerned are Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. The 22 nations cover an area of more than 20 million square kilometers with more than 540 million inhabitants.
The idea of holding an Ibero-American Summit to provide a forum for the world's Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking nations, which share a common cultural and historical heritage, was proposed by Spain's King Juan Carlos in 1976. The first summit was officially held in Guadalajara, Mexico, in 1991.
The Ibero-American General Secretariat (SEGIB), created at a summit in Costa Rica in November 2004, is based in Madrid, Spain, with the purpose to promote closer ties between the Iberian Peninsula countries and Latin America. A declaration named after the host city will be issued at each summit meeting.