* Latin America promises investment opportunities
* Spain asks for reliable legal frameworks for its companies
By Fiona Ortiz
CADIZ, Spain, Nov 17 Latin America on Saturday
pledged investment opportunities for recession-hit Spanish and
Portuguese companies but warned its former colonial masters
drastic cost cutting would only deepen their misery.
The economic plight of Iberia dominated a two-day summit of
leaders from Spain, Portugal and Latin America in the southern
Spanish city of Cadiz - a principle port for Spanish galleons
loaded with riches in the days of empire.
In a reversal of fortune, Spain and Portugal are now banking
on Latin American markets to get them on the road to recovery.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was the star of the
meeting because of hopes consumer demand and public building
projects in her country's $2.5 trillion economy will create
opportunities for Iberian companies, from energy to retail.
"We have also been hit by the crisis because of the slowdown
in international markets but we are widening public and private
investment in infrastructure," Rousseff told fellow leaders at
the summit, which ends on Saturday.
Latin American countries are all too familiar with the type
of fiscal crisis that Portugal and Spain are now going through.
Over past decades they went through boom-and-bust cycles,
and devaluations and austerity programmes monitored by the
International Monetary Fund.
"Don't commit the same errors we did," said Ecuadorean
President Rafael Correa, warning austerity may worsen recession.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Spanish tycoons built up business
empires in Latin America in what is known as the "Reconquest."
Spain's biggest companies, from banking groups Santander
and BBVA to technology firm Indra
and Telefonica, are increasingly dependent on Latin
American revenue as domestic operations slump.
Angel Gurria, secretary general of the OECD group of wealthy
nations, said Latin America has new opportunities for Spanish
investment in infrastructure, technology and education.
But Latin America also holds risks for Iberian firms.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said Spanish companies
needed an environment of legal certainty in Latin America,
referring to nationalisations in Venezuela and Argentina.
Argentine President Cristina Fernandez did not attend the
summit this year, which takes place during a dispute over
Argentina's nationalisation in April of YPF, a unit of Spanish
oil major Repsol.
Leaders of Venezuela, Paraguay, Uruguay, Guatemala, Cuba and
Nicaragua were also absent. Still, attendance at this year's
summit was better than last year when only half of the members
showed up, raising serious questions over the event's relevance.
Portugal was rescued last year by Europe after it risked
defaulting on public debt and now Spain - the euro zone's fourth
biggest economy - is on the brink of needing aid. They are both
in deep recession, while Latin America is seen growing 3.2
percent this year by the OECD and more robustly in 2013.
A quarter of the Spanish workforce is jobless. Hundreds of
thousands of workers and unemployed marched on Wednesday in both
countries protesting budget cuts.
Ecuadoreans, Bolivians and Colombians flocked to Spain
during a building bubble that imploded in 2008, leaving the
country littered with empty apartment buildings and underused
airports and highways.
Now some of those immigrants have headed home and a growing
number of Spaniards are seeking their fortune in Latin America.