Wikileaks

LA VISITA DIPLOMÁTICA DE CHÁVEZ A ESPAÑA EN 2004

"La visita de Chávez ha sido un fracaso en relaciones públicas"

  • El Gobierno insiste en que la visita de Chávez se produce tras presiones diplomáticas.
ID:
23992
Etiquetas:
PREL, PGOV, PHUM, SP, American - Spanish Relations
Fecha:
2004-12-13 15:50:00
RefID:
04MADRID4687
Origen:
Embassy Madrid
Clasificación:
CONFIDENTIAL
Destino:
---
Encabezado:
---
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.



C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 MADRID 004687

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/09/2014
TAGS: PREL, PGOV, PHUM, SP, American - Spanish Relations
SUBJECT: DEPUTY FM LEON ON CUBA, IRAQ, AFGHANISTAN,
BILATERAL RELATIONS

Classified By: Charge Bob Manzanares; reasons 1.5 (B) and (D)

1. (C) Summary. Charge met with Deputy Foreign Minister
Bernardino Leon on 12/9 to discuss GOS-USG differences on
Cuba, overall bilateral relations, and Spanish participation
in NATO missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Leon conveyed GOS
displeasure with recent comments by WHA A/S Noriega
criticizing GOS efforts to spur greater EU engagement with
the Cuban Government. He said the MFA Director General for
Latin America would like to visit Washington to clarify the
Spanish position, but that he could not do so without either
gaining political cover for such a visit in the form of a
neutral USG statement or waiting a suitable period to allow
the episode to fade. Leon underscored Spain's determination
to press forward with its new Cuba policy. On bilateral
relations, Leon claimed that the opposition Popular Party
(PP) is trying to foment USG-GOS tensions for internal
political purposes. He said the GOS genuinely wants good
relations and will soon name a Special Envoy to the U.S. to
promote better high-level relations. Leon asserted that
President Bush's November meeting with King Juan Carlos had
revealed possible "misunderstandings" on the part of the USG
with respect to the GOS, including the "misperception" that
Zapatero represents the left wing of the Socialist Party. On
Iraq, Leon indicated that the January elections may represent
an opportunity for the GOS to deepen its involvement, though
participation in a NATO mission on the ground remains a
sensitive issue. The GOS is prepared to send forces to
Afghanistan to help with the next round of elections, but
remains non-commital on leading a PRT.

2. (C) The GOS seems to understand the political liability of
having poor relations with the USG and some, like Leon, are
doing what they can to at least superficially improve ties.
We expect they will keep asking us to "watch their actions
rather than their words." We will continue to press for both
more favorable actions and more favorable words. On Cuba, it
is telling that the GOS felt sufficiently stung by A/S
Noriega's comments to seek the public support of Chirac in a
high-level meeting on 12/8. If Sandomingo does visit the
Department in the next few weeks, it is important that he
understand the depth of USG skepticism with respect to
Spain's efforts to weaken EU policy towards Cuba. We will
not shift Madrid's course from greater engagement with
Castro, but a sense that the USG is determined to hold the
line may discourage the GOS from pushing the EU towards even
greater rapprochement with Havana. End Summary.

//CUBA DOMINATES THE DISCUSSION//

3. (C) Leon began by saying that he primarily wanted to speak
with Charge regarding the USG's views on Spanish policy
towards Cuba, and in particular recent comments by WHA A/S
Noriega to the effect that the GOS had been manipulated by
Castro regime in pursuing its new policy of engagement. What
especially rankled the MFA about USG's comments was the
implication that the GOS was somehow pro-Castro. Leon
insisted that President Zapatero and FM Moratinos had
maintained a consistent policy of placing democratic reforms
as a pre-condition for improved EU ties with Cuba. He said
that Spain had worked within the EU Common Position and
merely wanted to modify the Restrictive Measures on Cuba,
"which have proven ineffective," in order to develop a more
sustainable EU-wide position. Leon claimed the majority of
EU countries wanted to change the policy and said that the
Restrictive Measures had been undermined from the start by
the refusal of some missions in Havana (the Austrians,
Belgians, Portuguese, and Greeks, he claimed) to invite
dissidents to national day events. He asserted that the UK
had also changed tack in favor of greater engagement with
Cuba because PM Blair was attempting to burnish his
"progressive" credentials and said it was his understanding
that the UK Embassy in Havana planned to join the above EU
missions in finding a way around inviting dissidents to its
national day. The solution in his view was to replace the
current measures with a broadly-supported policy of deeper
engagement with the opposition, but at a level less visible
than invitations to national day events.

4. (C) In the interest of clarifying Spain's actions towards
Cuba, Leon said he was eager to send DG for Latin America
Javier Sandomingo to meet with A/S Noriega. However, he said
the GOS could not do so politically without seeming to be
responding to a summons from Washington. Leon said the
problem was complicated by the presence of pro-PP diplomats
in the Spanish Embassy in Washington who might leak slanted
information to news services hostile to the Zapatero
administration. He suggested two possible courses of action:

-- That the Department make a neutral public statement
regarding Spanish policy towards Cuba to the effect that each
country had the right to determine its own best course for
stimulating democratic reforms, immediately after which
Sandomingo would travel to Washington; or,

-- If the USG could not make such a statement, then the
GOS would wait a few days (more than a week) before sending
Sandomingo in order to place an appropriate period of time
between A/S Noriega's comments and Sandomingo's travel.

5. (C) Charge replied that he would relay the suggestions to
Washington, but that in either case it was important that
Sandomingo travel to Washington to clarify Spain's view of
how to move forward on Cuba. Charge added that A/S Noriega's
comments may have upset some in the GOS, but they accurately
reflected USG skepticism of Spain's direction on Cuba. In
particular, the USG was concerned by Spain's decision to take
the lead in bringing about the end of EU invitations to
dissidents to EU national day events. The negative symbolism
and damage to the morale of the opposition - essentially
telling them that they were not legitimate political actors -
outweighed any advantage of renewed engagement.

6. (C) Leon said that, far from distancing the EU from the
opposition, the GOS proposed broader engagement, just in a
different format than national day events. "After eight
years of Aznar's hard line towards Cuba, the EU has not
advanced its objectives with respect to improved human
rights. We want to try a different approach." Leon said
that it is clear to the GOS that Castro will not be
overthrown and that it is more important that Spain be in a
position to influence the next set of leaders. He said that
it was in Spain (and the USG's) interest to promote a soft
landing for the next Cuban leaders rather than an explosive
transition leading, perhaps, to the need for USG
intervention. He said the GOS and the USG should work
together to make their different approaches complement each
other. Charge reiterated that USG held reservations
regarding the effectiveness of the Spanish approach. Leon
said that Spain and the EU can only make overtures to Castro
- if he rejects them then the imposition of new EU
restrictive measures would be possible.

//U.S.-SPAIN RELATIONS//

7. (C) Leon said that Spain is politically divided at the
moment, as demonstrated by the PP's decision to adopt an
aggressive posture towards the GOS in hopes of bringing down
the government and forcing early elections. He claimed that
PP leaders, including former President Aznar and former FM
Ana Palacio, were trying to use their contacts in Washington
to shape USG opinion against Zapatero. The PP's objective,
he said, is to use bilateral friction between the USG and the
GOS as part of its campaign to unseat FM Moratinos, and
eventually Zapatero. Leon said it was important for USG
officials, such as A/S Noriega, to understand that even
comments in seemingly innocuous settings can get picked up by
the press and have an impact far beyond that intended by the
speaker.

8. (C) Charge noted that we had been sending an identical
message to GOS officials, with mixed success. For example,
the visit of King Juan Carlos sent an excellent, positive
message regarding the importance of our bilateral relations,
but the positive effect had been negated by the simultaneous
visit of Venezuelan President Chavez to Madrid. All of the
good news from the King's visit was drowned out by three days
of Chavez' revolutionary rhetoric and tirades against the USG
while standing next to Spanish officials.

9. (C) Leon agreed that the Chavez visit had been a public
relations failure, adding that the GOS only invited Chavez
after months of requests from Chavez. Turning to the King's
meeting with President Bush, Leon said that there might be
some "misunderstandings" on the part of the USG regarding the
GOS. He said that when King Juan Carlos had raised Spain's
exclusion from November White House briefings on the Middle
East to which other European (G-8) countries had been
invited, President Bush, the King said, expressed surprise
and reassured the King that Spain would be invited to future
such meetings.
10. (C) According to Leon, the King also commented on the
importance of popular sentiment against Spanish deployment of
troops to Iraq in Zapatero's decision to withdraw those
forces. However, Zapatero sent troops to Afghanistan as a
gesture of solidarity with the USG in the fight against
terrorism. Leon said President Bush evinced surprise about
the information on Spain's deployment to Afghanistan.
Separately, Leon said he was surprised to hear that former
President Bush had reportedly mused that President Zapatero
might be further to the left politically than former
President Felipe Gonzalez, with whom the USG had enjoyed good
relations. Leon insisted that Zapatero and Moratinos
represented Spain's version of "New Labour" and that both
leaders were well within the political mainstream.

//SPECIAL ENVOY TO THE U.S.//

11. (C) Leon said the GOS is fully cognizant of the
importance of good relations with Washington and
"confidentially" shared that Zapatero will soon name
Socialist Parliamentarian Rafael Estrella as special envoy to
the U.S. Estrella, who is known for his pro-U.S. views, will
travel frequently to the U.S. to promote strong high-level
ties. (COMMENT: This appointment could, and probably will
be, interpreted as a further sign of the MFA's lack of
confidence in their Embassy in Washington. END COMMENT) In
a similar vein, Leon said the GOS plans to name pro-U.S.
Socialists to head the "Real Instituto Elcano," Spain's
premier think tank, which in the Spanish system is partly
directed by the ruling political party.

//MORE FLEXIBLE ON IRAQ?//

12. (C) Charge drew Leon's attention to the importance of
allowing Spanish forces assigned to NATO commands to
participate in all NATO missions, including missions in Iraq.
Leon said that the issue remained very sensitive for the GOS
and that there are different schools of thought both within
the MFA and among Zapatero's advisers as to how to proceed.
The GOS will look to the successful conclusion of the Iraqi
elections as a benchmark that may allow Spanish forces to
participate more fully. Leon indicated much greater
political support for providing Spanish training for Iraqi
police forces outside of Iraq.

//AFGHANISTAN PRT//

13. (C) Charge urged Leon to support Spanish leadership of a
PRT in Afghanistan. Leon said that the GOS was prepared to
provide additional forces immediately to support the next
round of elections, and, if that went well, to participate in
a PRT. He did not indicate willingness to have Spain lead a
PRT. Leon noted that, due to new legislation, the GOS now
requires Parliamentary approval of any deployment of Spanish
forces overseas, making strong political support for any
mission an even more critical component for the GOS.

//USG SUPPORT FOR UNSYG ANNAN//

14. (C) Charge raised local press reports indicating that
President Zapatero and French President Chirac had voiced
strong support for the continued UN leadership of UNSYG
Annan. The press reports implied that Zapatero and Chirac
were countering USG efforts to undermine Annan. Charge said
this was not the case and shared copies of Department
statements indicating strong USG support for Annan. He said
it was important that the GOS not misinterpret USG intentions
with respect to the oil-for-food investigation. (NOTE:
During the Zapatero-Chirac meeting, Chirac also stated his
support for Spain's efforts to weaken EU measures against
Cuba and attacked USG criticism of Spain's overtures to
Castro. END NOTE.)

//COMMENT//

15. (C) The GOS seems to understand the political liability
of having poor relations with the USG and some, like Leon,
will do what they can to at least superficially heal the
damage. We expect they will keep asking us to "watch their
actions rather than their words." We will continue to press
for both more favorable actions and more favorable words. On
Cuba, it is telling that the GOS felt sufficiently stung by
A/S Noriega's comments to seek the public support of Chirac
in a high-level meeting. If Sandomingo does visit the
Department in the next few weeks, it is important that he
understand the depth of USG skepticism with respect to
Spain's efforts to weaken EU policy towards Cuba. We will
not shift Madrid's course from greater engagement with
Castro, but a sense that the USG is determined to hold the
line may discourage the GOS from pushing the EU towards even
greater rapprochement with Havana.
MANZANARES;"