[El Espectador, Colombia]



El Pais, Spain

WikiLeaks: U.S. Cables Expose Nuance of Displeasure with Spanish Government


"The picture exposes Spanish politics at the highest levels and presents an unprecedented inside look at American interests in Spain, which are often quite different from those of Spaniards. ... The one-sided balance of power is reflected in the treatment dispensed to Spanish politicians."


By Jan Martínez Ahrens


Translated By Halszka Czarnocka


November 29, 2010


Spain - El Pais - Original Article (Spanish)

Madrid: The 3,620 documents from the U.S. Embassy in Madrid, analyzed by this newspaper (103 secret, 898 confidential and 2,619 non-categorized), offer a unique view of the priorities, strategies, conflicts and hidden pressure applied by Washington in Spain from 2004 until this year - a period that corresponds almost entirely to the socialist government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. The cables that El País will publish in the coming days shed light on the most nerve-wrecking, little-known moments in relations between the superpower and a medium-sized ally with whom there is no risk of a total rupture, despite areas of friction. These shadowy areas of disagreement, like the withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq, the Kosovo crisis, ties with Cuba or Venezuela, trade relations with countries suspected of terrorism or certain matters under judicial investigation are the keyholes that these secret and confidential papers allow us to peer through. For the first time, maneuvering “behind the scenes” (one of the most repeated expressions in the cables) at this powerful embassy is revealed. These practices, always discreet and expressed in a clear, linear fashion, include phone calls, meetings, announcements, and the exercise of pressure and threats, are directed at people and personalities with the authority to make decisions or who have access to privileged information.


This category includes King Juan Carlos (mentioned in 145 cables, including those from other embassies), Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero (111), [opposition leader] Mariano Rajoy (129), Former Prime Minister Felipe González (76), Former Prime Minister José María Aznar (53), and ministers, judges, prosecutors, businessmen and representatives from the most influential state institutions. All of these high-level contacts are described in detailed reports sent to be analyzed by the Washington machine (the peak year is 2007, with 928 cables, 80 percent more than the annual average). These are conversations that the Spanish partners didn't expect to see reproduced or divulged, the contents of which leave them in a zone that borders on the unethical or compromises them before the public.


This occurs in cables about court cases that affect U.S. interests. In other episodes of a political and business nature, the same pattern is repeated, with consequent damage to the interlocutor, who is many times situated at the top of power structure. At this point, one shouldn't forget the bias of the reports, which, far from being neutral, always categorize facts based on the interests of the U.S. Embassy. Not an independent, impartial observer, but an active executor of the guidelines of the U.S. State Department.


The primary object of the embassy’s work is the socialist government. The picture painted by the three U.S. ambassadors over the past six years (billionaire George L. Argyros, Cuban-American Eduardo Aguirre and, for Obama Administration, philanthropist Alan D. Solomont) in their numerous secret missives to Washington - often with a copy to the CIA - outline the ups and downs of the relationship with Zapatero and his team. The picture exposes Spanish politics at the highest levels and presents an unprecedented inside look at American interests in Spain, which are often quite different from those of Spaniards. The main topics on the Iberian Peninsula, such as ETA [Basque separatists], are considered domestic issues, and from day-to-day, these barely arouse the curiosity of the State Department bureaucrats - except for times when a truce is broken and the issue is reaches a political significance of the first order and which is capable, in their judgment, of toppling the government.



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In this grand political mural, the socialist victory of Zapetaro and the end of the Aznar Government are of key importance. Zapatero’s entry at the Moncloa Palace, which U.S. diplomats attributed in part to the mismanagement of the attack of March 11 by the Partido Popular, generated a wave of secret and confidential cables designed to inform their bosses about who the socialist leader was and what his aspirations were. The diplomats considered them typical of the “outdated and romantic” left.


From the very beginning, they noticed problems in Latin America, but particularly with the possible withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq, which was soon confirmed. That decision cooled relations to the point that after his second electoral victory, Bush didn’t even answer the congratulatory phone call from Zapatero. From this zero point, the U.S. Embassy papers show how trust slowly recovered, with Spain very eager to rebuild the relationship, and Washington aware of Spain's desire to regain lost ground, never forgetting its central objectives nor abandoning its policy of carrot and stick.


In a report prepared by Ambassador Eduardo Aguirre and sent to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, it is stated that, “Zapatero is playing a game for the benefit of his leftist and pacifist electoral base, and uses foreign policy to score points in Spanish politics, rather than to address to key priorities of foreign policy or broader strategic objectives (…) This has led to a bilateral relationship that is zig-zagging erratically.”


This one-sided balance of power is reflected in the treatment dispensed to Spanish politicians. Not one of them is met with enthusiasm, except for the King (there is even advice on how to make oneself agreeable to him), and perhaps the military. Much more unfavorable is the description of the prime minister. From the beginning of his term, he is considered a problem for certain major aspects of U.S. foreign policy. He is defined as a short-term politician who puts electoral calculation ahead of the common interests of the nation.


The same applies to his ministers. In the cables they are seen receiving all kinds of admonitions from U.S. ambassadors, especially during Aguirre's time [June 24, 2005 – January 20, 2009]. 



The response to these pressures covered a wide spectrum: many are conciliatory, others are outright conniving and some wholly negative. One Spanish secretary of state, for instance, confidentially asked about speeding up the extradition of an arms dealer, without missing a beat, reminded the representative of the most powerful nation on the planet that he would never put the individual in question “on a plane to the U.S. at three in the morning,” because in Spain, trials comply with certain guarantees and transparency.


This is just one scene among the hundreds of secret (and often not so reassuring) maneuvers brought to light by the cables from the U.S. embassy in Madrid. Sometimes they occur during apparently relaxed meetings; on other occasions, hard and direct pressure is applied; and on still others, damning reports on senior government officials are dispatched. This is what one would expect in a world ruled by confidentiality and secrecy. But this time, all has been revealed.



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[Posted by WORLDMEETS.US December 2, 10:25pm]


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