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Cablegate: Spain: Tour D'horizon with Former President Aznar

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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MADRID 002632

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/18/2016
TAGS: PREL PGOV SP
SUBJECT: SPAIN: TOUR D'HORIZON WITH FORMER PRESIDENT AZNAR

REF: BARCELONA 148

MADRID 00002632 001.2 OF 002


Classified By: Amb. Eduardo A. Aguirre for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (C) SUMMARY: The Ambassador hosted former President Jose
Maria Aznar for a private lunch at his residence on October
16. President Aznar offered his opinions on the domestic
political situation as well as the outlook in Latin America.
He also told Ambassador of his satisfaction at seeing
improved United States-Spain relations, despite the
difficulties this presents to his party in opposition. He
told the Ambassador that he fears the current government is
presiding over the "Balkanization" of Spain. END SUMMARY.

2. (C) During their October 16 luncheon, former President
Aznar told the Ambassador that he views with satisfaction the
improving GOS relationship with the U.S. over the past year.
Aznar said that, as a Spaniard, he accepts this as a positive
development although it presents difficulties for his
opposition Partido Popular (PP). (COMMENT: Maintaining the
trans-Atlantic relationship has long been one of the PP's key
platforms, and PP leaders have hammered Zapatero for
upsetting ties with Washington. The PP has also criticized
the Zapatero government for steps it has taken that are
important to the U.S., such as the Spanish deployment to
Afghanistan and Lebanon. While efforts to improve the
bilateral relationship have eased the sting of this PP
criticism, PP leaders apparently have viewed U.S.-Spain
tensions as favorable to their interests. Aznar's comments
may reflect a new approach on this subject. We have told
both the PP and the Socialist Party now in power to avoid
using the U.S. in their political football, as this benefits
neither Spanish nor U.S. interests. END COMMENT.)

//Argentina, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Mexico//

3. (C) Aznar told the Ambassador about his recent speaking
tour in Latin America. He found that Argentina is
increasingly turning inward and that internal politics will
be the dominant force in Argentina for several years. In
Chile, he told the Ambassador that President Bachelet is
strongly influenced by her father's murder and her own
torture during the Pinochet regime. Aznar said that these
experiences are more profoundly shaping her executive
decisions than he had previously believed. On Peru, Aznar
expressed his belief that Alan Garcia is a "new man" who has
cast aside the legacy of his previous administration and who
is deeply committed to creating stability and economic
opportunity. He also said that President Uribe appears very
secure and established in Colombia. Aznar saw deep internal
divisions in Mexico, but he noted that the U.S. border fence
project is a unifying force of anti-American sentiment, to
the detriment of U.S. relations with Mexico.

//ETA, Basque Country and Catalonia//

4. (C) Aznar said he fears that the GOS is presiding over
the "Balkanization" of Spain, by allowing the autonomous
communities greater independence. The PP feels that by
allowing the 2006 Catalonia referendum on autonomy, the GOS
has opened the floodgates to demands for greater local
control. Worse, by entering into negotiations with ETA, the
GOS has nearly legitimized the Basque self-determination
movement. Aznar expressed his belief that the ongoing ETA
negotiations will fail. He said that the only way to deal
with ETA is as a criminal organization. The negotiations
never had a chance for success, he said, because neither side
ever had any room to maneuver or flexibility in their
positions. According to Aznar, ETA will never abandon its
demand for Basque self-determination, and the GOS can never
agree to that demand.

5. (C) Adhering to the party line, Aznar expressed
confidence that the PP would win a slim plurality in the
approaching Catalonia regional election. NOTE: Polling
indicates that the Catalan "middle of the road" CiU party is
likely to win the regional election, though it may have to
form a tripartite coalition to govern (reftel). The PP is
not even assured a place in that coalition, as it currently
is polling at around 10 percent in the region. END NOTE.

------------------------------------------
Visit Embassy Madrid's Classified Website;
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/madrid/
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MADRID 00002632 002.2 OF 002


AGUIRRE

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