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Cablegate: Spain Will Not Resolve Religious Freedom Issue

VZCZCXRO2031
PP RUEHLA
DE RUEHMD #2241 3481244
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 141244Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY MADRID
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3950
INFO RUEHLA/AMCONSUL BARCELONA PRIORITY 3202

UNCLAS MADRID 002241

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

G FOR U/S DOBRIANSKY
G FOR ANNE CARSON
G/DRL/IRF FOR JACK CRODDY AND NANCY HEWETT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV KIRF SP
SUBJECT: SPAIN WILL NOT RESOLVE RELIGIOUS FREEDOM ISSUE
THIS LEGISLATURE

REF: MADRID 2029

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: After high-level engagement with the
Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Justice, and Economy and
Finance, it is clear that Spain will not act to extend full
benefits and privileges to the Church of Latter Day Saints,
the Buddhists, and the Jehovah's witnesses prior to the March
2008 national elections. We plan to pursue the issue with
both the GOS and the opposition Popular Party (PP) prior to
the elections, laying down markers that this will be one of
our top bilateral priorities of 2008, whichever party should
win. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) On December 5, Ambassador Aguirre spoke with
Foreign Minister Moratinos again about the issue of extending
full benefits and privileges to the Church of Latter Day
Saints (LDS), the Buddhists, and the Jehovah's Witnesses in
Spain, putting them on a level playing field with the four
major religions in Spain - Roman Catholicism, Islam,
Protestantism, and Judaism. Moratinos said that the matter
was with the Ministry of Treasury and would require that
Ministry's approval to make it into the budgetary process for
FY 2008. Without approval from Treasury, a proposed
amendment could not be considered in Parliament prior to the
adjournment of the current legislature, which will adjourn
for all non-budget business on December 20. The next
legislature will convene once a new government is formed
following the March 2008 national elections.

3. (SBU) The DCM called Deputy Justice Minister Julio Perez
Hernandez November 20 to discuss the matter. Perez Hernandez
told the DCM that he would review the matter very seriously
and would see what could be done. As Charge, DCM followed up
with a letter to Perez Hernandez on November 21.

4. (SBU) The DCM spoke with Deputy Treasury Minister Ocano's
chief of staff Mercedes Caballero at Treasury on December 5,
as Ocano was unavailable due to final budget negotiations.
Caballero informed DCM that to the best of her knowledge,
Treasury had not received any instructions from policy makers
in Justice or the Council of Ministers to move this
legislation forward as a priority. She said that if the GOS
were serious about acting on such an amendment, Treasury
would have received instructions by this time. She was not
aware of any inquiries from Justice, Foreign Affairs or the
Council of Ministers into the fiscal implications of such a
measure. As such, it was a practical impossibility that such
an amendment could be enacted prior to the adjournment of
this legislature. The DCM and Caballero did agree to convene
an inter-agency group next year to develop the road map for
the enactment of such legislation.

5. (SBU) We plan to hold follow-up meetings with GOS
officials and members of the opposition Partido Popular to
emphasize the importance of this issue to the U.S. and to
underscore that this legislation should be high on the agenda
of the new Spanish government in 2008.
AGUIRRE

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