CARTAGENA, Colombia (AP) — Spain, Portugal and their former Latin American colonies have been holding annual meetings for a quarter century, few as piquant as the 2007 affair when then-King Juan Carlos lost his temper with Venezuela's president.
"Why don't you shut up?" the Spanish monarch famously chastised the interrupting Hugo Chavez.
This year's session in the colonial Caribbean gem of Cartagena was to have been a celebration of President Juan Manuel Santos' successful negotiation of an end to the Western Hemisphere's oldest and last major armed conflict. But Colombian voters on Oct. 2 narrowly rejected the peace pact he signed with FARC rebels a week earlier.
The attendance list attests to the meeting's fading luster. Only a dozen of the 22 heads of state have confirmed their attendance this year. Spain's acting prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, took a pass as did the presidents of Argentina and Brazil.
The late Chavez's successor as Venezuela's president, Nicolas Maduro, is a question mark. His nation is beset by an increasingly desperate economic and political crisis.
Maduro would be apt to encounter rebuke from Peru's new president, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. The urbane former Wall Street investment banker has shown little patience for Maduro, a former bus driver whom Venezuela's opposition is trying to oust.
Kuczynski called Thursday for Venezuela's suspension from the Organization of American States for failing to honor the Inter-American Democratic Charter. Maduro's government was widely accused of dictatorial machinations when its electoral council suspended the gathering of signatures for a recall election to oust the Venezuelan leader.
Kuczynski said before flying to Colombia that he would also make a point of organizing emergency humanitarian aid for Venezuela due to its acute shortages of food and medicine.
Michael Shifter, president of the U.S.-based InterAmerican Dialogue think tank, said there is no consensus among summit attendees on what to do about Venezuela.
"The leaders will for certain limit themselves to calling for dialogue and a peaceful settling of differences," he said.
Shifter said it should be no surprise that Ibero-American summits after this year will be held only every other year.
"Spain and Portugal are much less influential than in the past," he said, as Latin America increasingly looks across the Pacific to China and other Asian nations.
Associated Press writer Frank Bajak in Bogota, Colombia, contributed to this report.