Vaccine availability concerns take center stage at Ibero-American Summit
By Macarena Soto
Soldeu, Andorra, Apr 21 (EFE).- The issue of Covid-19 vaccine availability took center stage at the latest Ibero-American Summit on Wednesday, with heads of state and government and other representatives of the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking countries of Europe and the Americas speaking as one voice for equitable and universal access to the shots.
Venezuela was the other main focal point of the one-day gathering, which took place Wednesday in the landlocked Iberian microstate of Andorra in a semi-attendance format.
The summit was due to take place in November of last year but was postponed due to the pandemic.
Andorra proposed a reduced format, with only four other delegations attending in person – Spain and Portugal, due to their geographical proximity, as well as Guatemala and the Dominican Republic, the host of the previous summit in 2018 and the next one in 2022, respectively.
Bolivia’s leftist president, Luis Arce, took up the vaccine issue, calling on the World Trade Organization and the World Intellectual Property Organization to waive the patents for coronavirus drugs and vaccines to ensure that all countries have equitable access.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said for his part that his country will donate roughly 7.5 million of the vaccine doses it receives this year to Latin American and Caribbean countries.
He said those doses will be provided once at least 50 percent of Spain’s population is vaccinated and will be distributed via the Covax mechanism, a World Health Organization-led effort that aims to ensure that low- and middle-income countries have access to Covid-19 vaccines.
Dominican President Luis Abinader denounced the “hoarding” of vaccines by wealthy countries, saying those actions were “contrary to all notion of human solidarity.”
Pope Francis, for his part, sent a letter to the summit calling for “equitable distribution” of the shots so that the needs of the “most vulnerable” are taking into account.
His remarks were echoed by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who warned at the summit that “dangerous vaccine nationalism,” if it continued, would cause the vaccine rollout in developing countries to take years.
Leftist Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro had announced plans to participate in the summit, although early Wednesday he decided that Vice President Delcy Rodriguez would represent the country instead.
Leaders of several countries that are close allies of the United States expressed their displeasure at the participation of that oil-rich nation, whose government is viewed as illegitimate by the US and has been targeted by Washington with harsh sanctions.
A war of words ensued during the meeting between the representatives of Venezuela and Colombia, neighboring countries whose relations have become particularly sour.
“There are millions of Venezuelan brothers who have left (their homeland) as a result of the social destruction … of the dictatorship and who are dispersed in many of our countries,” Colombian President Ivan Duque said.
Rodriguez fired back by saying Duque’s government had proved to be a “terrible, pathetic” failure.
“The failure to guarantee peace to the people of Colombia (after his predecessor’s 2016 peace agreement with leftist rebels) and the failure to eradicate drug crops,” the vice president said. EFE