Cablegate: Ambassador's Meeting with President Zapatero

Published: Thu 14 Jul 2005 12:12 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
141216Z Jul 05
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MADRID 002653
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/13/2015
Classified By: Ambassador Eduardo Aguirre; reasons 1.4 (B) and (D).
1. (C) Summary. Ambassador Aguirre had his first meeting
with President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero on July 12 to
introduce himself and to review the USG roadmap for improving
bilateral relations. The 90-minute meeting was cordial and
relaxed throughout and covered a broad range of bilateral and
regional issues. The Ambassador said he would use his
position to speak frequently and directly to the people of
Spain regarding America's interests through extensive travel
and media access. Zapatero said Spain wants a good
relationship with the USG. He said he had long gotten past
his opposition to the war in Iraq and was focused on
supporting Iraqi reconstruction. The Ambassador said that
the USG had also moved beyond the dispute over Iraq and
looked forward to positive GOS actions and statements in
support of Iraqi reconstruction. President Zapatero focused
much of his discussion on Latin America, emphasizing the
importance Spain placed on protecting its investments in this
increasingly politically unsettled region. He said Spain had
pressed Venezuela to improve its behavior, both domestically
and at the regional level, but said regional leaders had
counseled him on the need to avoid "isolating" Chavez. The
Ambassador expressed appreciation for Spain's recent
statement supporting Venezuelan NGO "Sumate" against GOV
legal action and said the USG hoped Spain would use private
and public pressure to move Venezuela in a positive
direction. Zapatero defended Spanish policy towards Cuba,
saying it was imperitive for the GOS to establish ties with
Castro's likely successors. Zapatero noted the importance of
North Africa for Spain, particularly since many of the
terrorist suspects active in Spain are from Morocco. This
was an excellent first encounter with President Zapatero that
allowed the Ambassador to underline the USG's interest in
moving forward on a positive agenda. End Summary.
2. (C) The Ambassador and DCM met with President Zapatero and
National Security Adviser Carles Casajuana in the the
Presidential Palace. The Ambassador thanked Zapatero for the
warm welcome provided by Spanish officials, particularly in
arranging his early accreditation and a series of meetings
with key leaders and cabinet officials during his first three
weeks in Spain. Zapatero welcomed the Ambassador and
emphasized his desire to have good relations with the U.S.
Though Zapatero sometimes has a tendency to interrupt other
speakers and to dominate conversations, in this meeting he
was very engaging and listened attentively to the
Ambassador's points.
3. (C) Zapatero said that Iraq was clearly at the root of the
bilateral disagreements that had taken place over the last
year and, while he had disagreed with the U.S. intervention,
he had moved past these differences and wanted to focus on
the rebuilding of a stable, democratic Iraq. He said Spain
would continue to cooperate financially with in this effort.
Zapatero then reviewed key areas of mutual interest, saying
the U.S. and Spain could disagree on certain issues, but that
his government would raise any differences in a sincere,
transparent, and friendly manner. On counter terrorism, an
area of good U.S.-Spain cooperation, he said that jihadists
were clearly active in Spain and expressed concern that
Spain-based extremists may have had a role in the London
subway/bus attacks. He said Spain would continue to
cooperate with the USG on terrorism finance issues. Zapatero
noted his government's efforts to build a strong
counter-terrorism relationship with Morocco and to ease
Moroccan-Algerian tensions, iniatives he saw as dovetailing
with USG objectives in North Africa. He said that Spain also
desired a good U.S.-EU relationship and pointed to President
Bush's speech in Brussels as a clear indication of a similar
desire on the part of the USG. Zapatero highlighted Spain's
good investment climate and urged greater U.S. investment.
He said Spain wanted to increase its engagement with the
growing Hispanic community in the U.S. Zapatero said Spain's
solid economic growth generated sufficient revenues for the
GOS to contribute to development efforts in many regions.
4. (C) The Ambassador said that the USG also desired a good
relationship with Spain. He said that he would act as the
face and voice of President Bush in Spain and stressed the
importance of building confidence and credibility between
himself and GOS officials. The Ambassador said he would
speak frequently and directly to the people of Spain
regarding America's interests through extensive travel and
broad media access. He noted his extensive experience in
Latin America, as a government executive, and as a
businessman. The Ambassador said the USG had gotten past the
withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq, but it had proven
more difficult to get past the negative GOS rhetoric that had
followed the withdrawal. What the USG hoped for now was
positive Spanish action and public statements on Iraq and on
other issues important to the USG, such as the need for
democratic reforms in the Broader Middle East and North
Africa. The Ambassador said he also wanted to hear from GOS
officials to learn more about Spanish policy in North Africa,
which was important to the USG, but was obviously an even
greater priority for Madrid.
5. (C) President Zapatero discussed Spain's important and
growing interests in Latin America, noting that extensive
Spanish investment in the region meant that Spain would
suffer economically from any downturn or instability there.
He reviewed political conditions in Argentina, Bolivia,
Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, and Central America. He made clear
that Spanish business interests would generally trump
political considerations on any given country or issue.
Zapatero appeared particularly concerned regarding the threat
to Spanish investments in Bolivia's oil and gas industry. He
said Spain thought Mesa had been a good leader and worried
about the surge in indigenous group unrest and populist
leaders. On Brazil, he said the GOS was troubled by
President Lula's recent difficulties since it undermined Lula
as a symbol of a democratic alternative to the populist
message driven by others in the region. Zapatero cited the
lack of development in Central America as particularly
disappointing for Spain. The Ambassador discussed USG
efforts to win support for CAFTA as indicative of similar
U.S. concerns in Central America. Zapatero said Spain was
providing judicial assistance to Colombia and other countries
and planned to strengthen judicial cooperation throughout the
region in the course of the Ibero American Summit in
Salamanca, Spain in October.
6. (C) On Venezuela, Zapatero said Spain's policy of
engagement with the GOV was based on advice from regional
leaders not to isolate Chavez. The Ambassador said USG
policy was not aimed at isolating Chavez, but we had to be
realistic and do everything possible to keep him from
exporting his populist, anti-democratic model. In that
sense, Zapatero's attentions gave Chavez a legitimacy that he
might otherwise lack. The Ambassador said the USG very much
appreciated the recent GOS statements critical of GOV action
against Venezuelan NGO "Sumate," and expected that Spain
would continue to use both public statements and private
influence to move Venezuela in the right direction. Zapatero
said Spain had pressed Chavez to improve relations with
Colombia and urged Venezuela to institute strict controls on
the AK-47 assault rifles purchased from Russia.
8. (C) Zapatero said that increased development and
integration in North Africa were important for all of Europe,
but especially for Spain. He cited the lack of economic
growth in the region combined with increased radicalization
within disenfranchised populations as major risks to Spanish
security. Zapatero said that Morocco was the point of origin
for most terrorist suspects active in Spain and that this
factor alone made increased cooperation with Rabat a crucial
objective for the GOS. He said King Mohamed was deeply
concerned about terrorism and had pressed for greater
security cooperation with Spain on the part of Moroccan
security agencies. Zapatero said this would also serve USG
interests in the fight against terrorism.
9. (C) Zapatero said that the current internal EU discord
would not stop forward progress; fundamentally, "the EU is
set," regardless of any bumps on the road to further
integration. He said this fact obviated the long-running
internal debate in Spain over whether to pursue an
ever-greater European identity or maintain a more independent
national character.
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