A few weeks ago I wrote about the significance of ties between the Middle East and Latin America. At that time, the third Summit of South American and Arab Countries was scheduled for mid-February. That, of course, was before the people of the Middle East took to the streets en masse, demanding democracy and human rights, among other things.
The summit has since been postponed; it could be rescheduled for as soon as late April, but that depends, I suppose, on whether Middle Eastern leaders decide it is reasonable to expect to still have their jobs upon their return.
Meanwhile, the Miami Herald takes a look at the surprisingly large populations of Arabs and people of Middle Eastern descent who live, and in some cases have lived for quite some time, in South America. Apparently there is even a resurgence in second and third generation immigrants in the region rediscovering their Muslim roots. With these strong minority populations factored in, the Arab-Latin summit makes great sense. But the main impetus for the summit, I suspect, is simply that South America is on the rise and is seeking more prominence on the global stage. Brazil may be leading the way, making global economic inroads and having recently landed both the 2016 Olympics and the 2014 World Cup, but its neighbors are similarly ambitious.
Many Latin Americans feel neglected or taken for granted (or, at times, both) by their conspicuous neighbor to the north, and find in the Middle Eastern nations a chance of being taken seriously. The nations of the Middle East may view their ties with Latin America the same way. The reception awaiting President Obama when he travels to Brazil, Chile and El Salvador next month may provide some important clues as to the future of our hemisphere — and our world.