A politically charged atmosphere is overshadowing the European and Latin American summit in Peru, threatening to undermine efforts to fight poverty and global warming.
Host Peru is in favour of free trade, along with several other countries in the region. The EU is in negotiations with the trade bloc Mercosur, led by Brazil and Argentina, and Central American countries.
But at the summit in the capital Lima, some participants like Bolivia are sceptical. War clouds loomed recently between Venezuela and neighboring Colombia. These still linger – as does the whiff of insult aimed at German Chancellor Angela Merkel by Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.
And while the Lima Summit was advertised as focusing on inequality and social inclusion, critics point to shantytowns in the sand some 20 kilometres outside the capital. A medical worker in the slum told foreign reporters: “We won’t see any heads of state here.”
Peru created an environment ministry this week to help cope with the impact of rising global temperatures, which are melting its Andean glaciers. Peruvian delegates to the summit said they will push for more concrete measures to combat climate change.