President Ollanta Humala is on a three day visit to France, Spain and Portugal as part of his effort to strengthen Peru’s ties with European countries. On Thursday, Humala met with his counterpart in France, François Hollande, where both leaders signed agreements related to student exchanges programs and mutual recognition of diplomas.
When the knock-out round of the World Cup begins Saturday morning, the Western Hemisphere will have almost half of the final 16 teams in contention, and at least two teams (the winners of Argentina vs. Mexico on Sunday and also Brazil vs. Chile) guaranteed in the final eight. Even more compelling: both 2006 finalists, Italy and France, will be watching the games from the sidelines, the first time that’s ever happened. Other European teams that were early on picked to outperform have struggled; so far Holland appears to be the strongest European team although Slovakia has certainly surprised and Spain has finally recovered from an early setback to Switzerland. Latin America and also the United States have acquitted themselves well so far.
In soccer terms the Western Hemisphere has appeared to equal its former colonials overseers. The United States tied England 1-1; Brazil tied its “second team,” Portugal, 0-0. For good measure, even Mexico defeated its one-time colonial aspirant, France, 2-0. Mexicans should consider adding June 17 to their holiday calendar, to compliment Cinco de Mayo which celebrates the defeat of the French at the Battle of Juarez. Only Spain was able to prevail against its former colonies, defeating hapless Honduras, 2-0, and Chile by 2-1. (Honduras did eke out a tie in its last game.)
President Porfirio Lobo confirmed today that he was invited to the EU-Latin American summit scheduled to be held on May 18 in Madrid, but that he would only attend the EU-Central American meeting. The invitation of Honduran President Lobo to the EU-Latin American summit has riled some leaders of the UNASUR bloc. Several countries are threatening to boycott the meeting if President Lobo’s invitation is not rescinded; their refusal to accept the Lobo government’s legitimacy continues to cause a rift in the South American bloc.
Several governments continue to view the election of President Lobo following the ouster of Manuel Zelaya as illegitimate. “There is unease shared by most of us that will prevent a lot of UNASUR countries attending the summit,” expressed President Rafael Correa of Ecuador. An aide to President Lula da Silva of Brazil, Marco Aurelio Garcia added, “If Honduras attends, then at least ten Latin American presidents will not go to Madrid, starting with the president of Brazil.” President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela has also expressed his intent to boycott the proceedings should President Lobo attend.
For its part, the Spanish foreign minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos announced that “...there will be great participation” in the summit, noting that the enthusiasm to attend was high in many countries in Latin America and the European Union.
“I value the will of the people of Spain and of the European Union, so I will do what is necessary to guarantee that we do not take any action that will generate divisions or conflict,” said President Lobo, noting that the summit will have two separate meetings. It has not yet been determined how President Lobo’s absence from the larger EU-Latin American summit would affect calls for a boycott.