Latin American leaders gathered in a summit yesterday Friday 15th, discussing ways to ease poverty, fight drug trafficking and heal internal strife.
Heads of state and government officials from Spain, Portugal and their former colonies in the Americas also planned to discuss environmental protection and anti-terrorism efforts at the two-day summit opening Friday evening.
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe stepped off a plane to join the meeting just hours after soldiers rescued a kidnapped bishop in a battle with rebels who held him hostage. Bishop Jorge Enrique Jimenez was unharmed, but the Colombian army killed one insurgent.
"The rescue, safe and sound, fills us with satisfaction," Uribe said. "I invite the Colombian people to rebel against kidnapping."
Colombia, with no end in sight to its long-running civil war, is pressing for a united stance against terror and drug trafficking, which it accuses its leftist rebel groups of perpetrating.
Other leaders at the 12th annual Ibero-American Summit urged cooperation against arms trafficking.
A steady stream of leaders ? from Spain's King Juan Carlos to Chilean President Ricardo Lagos ? arrived in Bavaro, a resort on the east coast of the Dominican Republic.
Dominican President Hipolito Mejia welcomed 17 heads of government to the meeting in Bavaro, a resort on the east coast of the Caribbean country.
Dozens of Dominican activists crowded outside the nearby airport at Punta Cana to wait for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, praising him for leftist policies, which they say could lift millions of people from poverty.
Hopeful that Cuban President Fidel Castro would come, the group of more than 70 people shouted "Long live Chavez and Fidel!" as the motorcades with other leaders rolled past.
But Castro, at 76 the longest-serving head of government in the world, was not attending because of a heavy workload, according to Cuban Vice President Carlos Lage.
Before the opening ceremony, a scuffle broke out after one man in the press gallery asked a member of the passing Cuban delegation when his country would hold free elections, and another journalist criticized the question, said witness Xiomara Gonzalez, a reporter. Security officers broke up the fight. There appeared to be no serious injuries and no one was arrested.