Cablegate: Spain: Zapatero Reshuffles Domestic Policy Cabinet

DE RUEHMD #1342 1901607
P 091607Z JUL 07




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) SUMMARY. With an eye on issues that will be important
to voters in upcoming national elections, President Zapatero
announced on July 6 four changes to his cabinet.
Parliamentary Vice President Carme Chacon will become the new
Housing Minister. Elena Salgado, until now Minister of
Health, will become the Minister of Public Administration.
Zapatero also named Cesar Antonio Molina, current director of
the Cervantes Institute, as the new Minister of Culture
(replacing Carmen Calvo), and Bernat Soria, a renowned
scientist and expert on stem cell research, as his new
Minister of Health. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) Although the changes do not affect vital Ministries,
they likely were made with an eye toward elections next year.
Zapatero focused on strengthening Ministries that deal with
social and cultural values -- two main issues for his
political base. Carme Chacon has become the "face" of the
Socialist Party of Catalonia (PSC) in Madrid after Jose
Montilla's departure as Minister of Industry to preside the
over the Catalonian government. Chacon's popularity in
Catalonia is expected to be an asset for the governing
Socialist Party (PSOE) in the 2008 elections. Jordi Sevilla,
the departing Minister of Public Administration, will very
likely return to his home province of Valencia in order to
reinvigorate the PSOE there. Valencia is currently an
opposition Popular Party (PP) stronghold. The PSOE's most
recent candidate in Valencia was not successful in regional
elections, and Sevilla's strong image in the region as a
"pure blooded" politician should strengthen the party's
prospects there. The appointment of respected scientist
Bernat Soria, who is known for his work on stem cell
research, also provides the Zapatero government a high
profile on an issue he calculates is a net electoral asset
for the PSOE.

3. (U) This is the fourth time Zapatero has shuffled his
cabinet. Past changes have been more substantial, including
the April 2006 departure of Defense Minister Jose Bono. Also
in that move, Jose Antonio Alonso went to Defense, Alfredo
Perez Rubalcaba took over Interior, and Mercedes Cabrera
became head of Education.


4. (U) Carme Chacon. The Housing Minister, born in Barcelona
in 1971, holds a doctorate in law, was a law professor, and
is considered an expert in federalism. She was an OSCE
election observer in Bosnia in 1996 and Albania in 1997.
Chacon was elected to the Congress in 2000, and was elected
First Vice President of the Congress in 2004. She is close
to the leadership of the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC). She
is married to Miguel Barroso, a Zapatero confidant and former
Secretary of Communications who currently directs Casa de


5. (U) Elena Salgado. Salgado was made Minister of Public
Administration as a reward for her strong management of the
Health Ministry. As Health Minister, she was known for her
crusades against smoking, unhealthy fast food, and alcohol
abuse. She maintains good relations with key ministers
including Vice Presidents Fernandez de la Vega and Solbes,
Interior Minister Rubalcaba, and Defense Minister Alonso. She
was Spain's unsuccessful candidate for the World Health
Organization in 2006. Outside government, much of her
professional life has been in the telecommunications sector
and she is a former board member of Telefonica, Hispasat,
Retevision, and Correos. Salgado, born in 1949, has degrees
in industrial engineering and economics.

6. (U) Bernat Soria. One of the world's leading experts on
stem cells, the new Health Minister, born in 1951, was
previously the coordinator for the European Embryonic Stem
Cell Network, professor of physiology at Pablo de Olvide
University in Alicante, and director of the Andalucian Center
of Molecular Biology and Regenerative Medicine in Sevilla.
During the period of 2001-2005, Soria conducted his research
in Singapore after the Ministry of Health opened a case
against him for conducting research on stem cells acquired in
the U.S. Dr. Soria has an MD from the University of Valencia.

7. (U) Cesar Antonio Molina. The Culture Minister was
previously a professor of literature at Madrid's Complutense
University and of journalism at Carlos III University.
Molina, born in 1952, was director of the Circulo de Bellas
Artes cultural center from 1996-2004, and since then has been
director of the Cervantes Institute, which promotes Spanish
language and literature around the world. He is a writer who
has published some 30 books and frequently contributes
newspaper columns.

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