The 23rd Ibero-American Summit will conclude here on Saturday, an event marked by the notable absence of more than half of the Latin American presidents and of Spain's head of state, King Juan Carlos, who is recovering from a hip operation.

Held under the theme "The Ibero-American Community in the New Global Context," the event kicked off Friday night in Panama City with a tribute to Enrique Iglesias, who is stepping down as head of the Ibero-American Secretariat.

Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and other speakers made clear that no one wants Iglesias' departure as head of the secretariat, which organizes the summits of the leaders of Spain, Portugal and Latin America, to mean an end to his contributions to the Ibero-American community.

King Juan Carlos, in a taped video message, also expressed his desire that Iglesias will continue to be involved in decision-making processes that ensure a better future for the region.

Notable absentees at this year's event include Argentine President Cristina Fernandez, who is recovering from emergency surgery to drain blood from her brain.

Bolivia's Evo Morales and Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina announced Wednesday that they would have to skip the summit due to pressing matters at home.

The leaders of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff; Uruguay, Jose Mujica; Chile, Sebastian Piñera; Ecuador, Rafael Correa; Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro; Peru, Ollanta Humala; Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega; and Cuba, Raul Castro, are also absent from the gathering.

Crown Prince Felipe is representing Spain at the summit.

Two plenary sessions will be held on Saturday, as well as a private gathering of heads of state and government known as the "retreat," a space set up in recent years that allows the leaders to address various topics more freely and informally.

On this occasion, Martinelli suggested using the "retreat" to discuss burgeoning social movements in some countries that have sprung up as a symptom of political disenchantment and restlessness among various sectors of the population, including young people.

Promoting that space for "private dialogue" among the heads of state and government is one of the changes that is expected to be approved as part of a summit restructuring plan.

The summit's final resolution, which has already been green-lighted by the countries' foreign ministers but must still be approved Saturday by the heads of state and government, includes that point as well as a proposal to hold the summits once every two years as opposed to annually. EFE