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Cablegate: Spain: Former President Aznar On Spanish Politics

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PP RUEHAG RUEHROV
DE RUEHMD #1287/01 1831141
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 021141Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY MADRID
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2903
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS 3943
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT 0240
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 5219
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL 0112
RUEHME/AMEMBASSY MEXICO 0641
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT 6029
RUEHLA/AMCONSUL BARCELONA 2861
RUEHUB/USINT HAVANA 0206

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MADRID 001287

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/01/2017
TAGS: PGOV PREL SP
SUBJECT: SPAIN: FORMER PRESIDENT AZNAR ON SPANISH POLITICS,
WESTERN SAHARA, AFGHANISTAN, LEBANON, AND LATIN AMERICA

REF: MADRID 1276

MADRID 00001287 001.2 OF 002


Classified By: Ambassador Eduardo Aguirre for Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (C) Summary. Former Spanish President Jose Maria Aznar
told the Ambassador on June 28 that he viewed with great
concern the "malignant affect" that the Zapatero government's
policies were having on Spain, and he was dismayed to see the
Spanish nation slowly eroding as more power continued to
devolve to Catalonia and the Basque region. Aznar confided
to the Ambassador that if he saw his country descend to
extremely dire straits, he would consider "stepping back in,"
evidently implying that he would seek to return to leadership
of the Popular Party. Aznar said that he and the current
leadership of the Popular Party had been surprised by that
day's announcement by IMF Managing Director Rodrigo Rato that
he would step down this fall and return to Spain to spend
more time with his family. On North Africa, Aznar admonished
the U.S. for its current efforts to work with Morocco to
solve the Western Sahara issue and said that this was a "bad
idea." The Ambassador expressed condolences for the six
Spanish soldiers killed recently in Lebanon and said the USG
hoped the GOS would still fulfill its commitments both in
that country and in Afghanistan. Aznar replied that Zapatero
was weak and would cave to political pressure to reduce
Spain's presence. The Ambassador urged that the PP refrain
from complicating Spanish deployments in Afghanistan and
Lebanon, given the strategic importance of those missions.
Aznar replied that the PP had never pressured Zapatero on
either deployment and would not do so in the future. The
former President concluded the meeting by giving his views of
the current situation in Cuba, Mexico, and Colombia. End
Summary.

//AZNAR ON RATO'S RETURN AND THE "DETERIORATION OF SPAIN"//

2. (C) Ambassador and Mrs. Aguirre hosted former Spanish
President Jose Maria Aznar and his wife Ana Botella to a June
28 dinner at the residence. President Aznar said that he had
just come from a meeting at his FAES think tank that was
attended by current Popular Party (PP) leader Mariano Rajoy
and most of the PP leadership. Aznar said that he and other
PP members had been surprised by that day's announcement by
IMF Managing Director Rodrigo Rato that he would step down
this fall and return to Spain to spend more time with his
family. (Comment: Rato was Minister of the Economy in
Aznar's government and rumors have circulated in Spain that
Rato might make a strong running mate for Rajoy in Spain's
national elections next year. Spanish press on June 29
reported that Rato provided advanced notice of his
resignation only to Rajoy. End Comment). Aznar said he was
aware that Rato had become bored with his position at the IMF
and yearned to return to Spain, and he believes that Rato may
now assume a leading position in Spain's private sector.

3. (C) Aznar told the Ambassador that Spain was currently in
the hands of a very bad government whose policies were
"malignantly affecting" the fabric of the country. Aznar
views with great concern the continued devolution of power to
Catalonia and the Basque region that is "slowly eroding
Spain," as well as Zapatero's insistence on dredging up
Spain's Civil War past. The Ambassador asked Aznar what his
role would be if, in the former President's view, the
Zapatero government continued to pursue policies deleterious
to Spain, and Rajoy and the PP failed to gain any ground.
Aznar responded that, "if I saw that Spain was really in
despair, I may have to step back in to national politics."
Aznar said that he could accept a Socialist government in
Spain, but not this President and not this government. Aznar
posited that the recently completed regional and local
elections had been essentially a draw, and said that it was
nearly impossible to predict what would happen in national
elections that must be held by March 2008. Aznar said that
the PP's biggest threat was voter apathy, as most Spanish
citizens are complacently content with their personal
economic situation, and that only a "major event" could shake
the Spanish out of their lethargy. During the dinner, the
Ambassador gave Aznar several opportunities to comment on the
strengths of current PP leader Rajoy, but the President
offered only lukewarm support for his successor.

//ADMONITION ON WESTERN SAHARA//


MADRID 00001287 002.2 OF 002


4. (C) Aznar told the Ambassador that the U.S. should cease
its efforts to work with Algeria and Morocco to find a
solution to the problems in Western Sahara. Aznar stated
flatly that recent U.S. policy to move closer to Morocco on
this issue was a "bad idea." The former President's opinion
was that the U.S. would make concessions to Morocco and offer
assistance, but then Morocco would "misuse these things."

//LEBANON AND AFGHANISTAN//

5. (C) The Ambassador expressed condolences for the six
Spanish soldiers killed on June 24 in Lebanon and said he
hoped the GOS would still fulfill its commitments both in
that country and in Afghanistan. The Ambassador said it is
vital for Spain to maintain a united front on key strategic
issues such as these. Aznar replied that Zapatero was weak
and would cave to political pressure to reduce Spain's
presence in overseas deployments. The Ambassador replied
that much of the political pressure on Zapatero in regards to
Spanish deployments was in fact coming from the PP itself
(REFTEL). Aznar denied that the PP had put political
pressure on Zapatero to reduce Spain's commitment to its
overseas deployments, the PP only wanted Zapatero to better
explain the nature of the deployments to the Spanish people.
He said the PP would not pressure the GOS on this in the
future either.

//LATIN AMERICA//

6. (C) President Aznar briefly provided the Ambassador with
his view on select Latin American countries. He said that
Foreign Minister Moratinos' April visit to Havana was
"predictable," as current Spanish leaders are "sympathetic to
Castro, Communism, and this type of left-wing government."
Aznar had just completed a trip to Mexico and believes that
President Calderon is doing a "credible job." Aznar said
Calderon admitted to having completely misjudged the depth
and breadth of corruption in Mexico and that the pervasive
influence of narcotics in the country was beyond
comprehension. Turning to Colombia, Aznar said that
President Uribe needs U.S. assistance and that recent U.S.
Congressional actions to alter assistance to that country
would do long-term damage to both U.S. and Colombian
interests.

7. (C) Comment. Aznar's lack of enthusiasm for his
hand-picked successor, Rajoy, was noteworthy. Aznar never
really left Spanish politics, but a public decision to resume
a political career would likely reignite the pitched battle
generated by the nature of the PP's loss following the March
11, 2004 terrorist attacks. Aznar clearly is troubled by
what he believes is happening in Spain and may have doubts
that Rajoy is the man to return the PP to power. Although
Rajoy and the current PP leadership trumpeted the results of
regional elections, Aznar believes that it was a draw. The
PP is confident heading into national elections, but a
positive outcome is far from assured. If Rajoy cannot return
his party to national power, individuals such as Rodrigo
Rato, Madrid Mayor Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon, and perhaps former
President Aznar may be waiting in the wings.
AGUIRRE

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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