Cablegate: Scenesetter for Codel Sires' November 13-16 Visit

DE RUEHMD #1186/01 3121256
P 071256Z NOV 08




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Representative Sires, Embassy Madrid looks forward
to your and your delegation's visit to Madrid and Barcelona.
The Spanish are eager to share their assessment of political
developments, regional issues, and bilateral relations with
you. The recent US national election has been closely
followed here in Spain, where a strong atmosphere of goodwill
and optimism has emerged for increasingly closer bilateral
relations. Your meetings with Spanish officials will afford
good opportunities to shore up our strong bilateral
counterterrorism relationship.

2. (SBU) Your visit will provide a key opportunity to
highlight the importance we place on the U.S.-Spain
relationship, especially in the fields of counterterrorism
and transportation security. Spain is an important friend
and ally of the U.S., and we value its cooperation. Spain is
a member in good standing of all major non-proliferation
organizations and regimes and understands the importance of
international cooperation in our joint efforts. The fight
against terrorism, narcotics, and human trafficking forms one
of the cornerstones of our bilateral relationship, and
Spanish troops are carrying out important missions in
countries such as Afghanistan and Lebanon. Spain has long
fought a domestic terrorist threat from the Basque terrorist
group ETA and suffered tragically from Islamic extremist
terrorism in the 2004 Madrid train bombings. We have a great
deal in common when it comes to counterterrorism and law
enforcement, and we need to be innovative in finding new and
improved avenues for bilateral cooperation with a trusted
multilateral ally against the common threats we face.


3. (SBU) Spain is an al-Qaeda target and a critical player in
U.S.-EU counterterrorism efforts due to its proximity to the
Maghreb and a population that includes more than one million
Muslims, mostly immigrants. Senior Al-Qaeda leaders often
call for attacks to recapture the medieval "Al Andalus," and
the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in North Africa are
a fixation for Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb and other extremists.
On March 11, 2004, Madrid suffered bloody train bombings
perpetrated by Islamic extremists. The coordinated attacks
killed 191 persons and injured nearly 2,000 more, making it
the second-deadliest terror attack in European history, after
the Lockerbie bombing. The Spanish government considers the
threat from Islamic terrorism to be one of its top national
security priorities and has identified numerous Islamic
extremist groups operating within its borders. The Spanish
are actively pursuing Islamic extremism terrorism-related
investigations and have scores of suspects in jail. Public
opinion polling shows nearly three-quarters of Spaniards are
worried about the threat of Islamic fundamentalism, more than
in the U.S. or Europe as a whole.

4. (SBU) Bilateral cooperation is strong. Spain pursues an
aggressive agenda in law enforcement, judicial, and
information-sharing efforts, at least with us. One example
is the HSPD-6 agreement we signed in 2007 to facilitate the
sharing of information between our national counterterrorism
authorities. Spain also is a founding member of the
Proliferation Security Initiative and has participated
actively during its five-year existence. Spain, which is a
great believer in the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear
Terrorism (GI), has hosted a number of GI events in 2008 and
has been at the forefront of efforts to expand membership.
Spanish officials recently have given indications that Madrid
wants to deepen bilateral cooperation -- especially emergency
preparedness operational exercises -- to combat nuclear
terrorism in the coming year.

5. (SBU) The Consulate General in Barcelona is increasing its
staff size as part of an inter-agency initiative to host a
jointly-coordinated counterterrorism, anti-crime, and
intelligence center to work with our Spanish and Catalan
hosts in combating the target-rich environment of terrorist
and criminal activities in the region. Barcelona, Spain's
second largest city and a key commercial center and tourist
destination, is the nexus of a host of illicit activities
that threaten U.S. interests. Barcelona's location near the
Maghreb makes it one of Europe's main entry points for
people, goods and money. U.S. and Spanish officials
increasingly see the links between terrorist networks and
criminals involved in the contraband of goods, drug
trafficking, money laundering, human smuggling, and document
falsification. The Catalonia region has been the site of more
than a dozen high-profile raids on suspected radical
Islamists since 9/11, including the dismantlement in January
2008 of a cell operating out of Barcelona that has ties to
Al-Qaeda and intended to attack the city's subway system.

MADRID 00001186 002 OF 004


6. (U) Rail Security: The GOS places a strong budgetary
emphasis each year on the expansion of its railways,
particularly on the AVE high-speed train rail network. The
Ministry of Infrastructure's strategic plan envisions that by
2020, 90 percent of Spain's population will have access to a
high-speed rail connection within 50 kilometers of their
homes. This emphasis is fueled by Spain's desire to reduce
high levels of CO2 emissions caused by private vehicles and
to improve Spain's transport competitiveness within the EU.
Railway safety is a particular concern for the GOS following
the deadly commuter rail train bombings in Madrid in 2004.
The extremists who conducted those attacks also placed
explosives along the Madrid-Seville AVE rail line less than a
month later, although an AVE security guard discovered the
bomb and a second catastrophe was averted. Under the
Ministry of Infrastructure, two public enterprises coordinate
to provide train service and safety to Spain's population.
ADIF is responsible for the tracks and infrastructure, and
RENFE is responsible for the trains and operations.
High-speed AVE lines currently connect Madrid to Seville,
Malaga and Barcelona. Future AVE projects are slated to link
a number of other cities, and to eventually link Spain with
Portugal and France. ETA, however, opposes the Ave's
expansion into Spain's autonomous Basque Country region, and
has conducted multiple attacks against the companies and
machinery involved in its construction over the past two
years. The domestic terrorist group continues to cite the
project as a prospective target for future attacks.

7. (SBU) Port Security: Spain participates in the Container
Security Initiative (in the ports of Algeciras, Barcelona,
and Valencia) and the Megaports Initiative to detect
radioactive cargo (in the port of Algeciras with anticipated
expansion to Barcelona and Valencia next year). The
Department of Homeland Security has a TDY team at full
strength that is working with host country officials on the
Container Security Initiative (CSI) at the Port of Barcelona
-- one of Europe's busiest, facilitating shipping throughout
the Mediterranean -- to screen U.S-bound shipments before
they leave port. These officers screen cargo coming from and
going to US ports and report considerable progress in working
with their Spanish counterparts in targeting suspicious cargo
destinations and in identifying anomalies in shipping
containers. Separately, the Department of Energy is working
with Spanish Customs and hopes to expand to Barcelona --
which is also the largest cruise port in the Mediterranean --
by the end of calendar year 2009 the Megaports program to
detect illicit nuclear and radioactive materials.


8. (SBU) President Zapatero's center-left Spanish Socialist
Workers' Party (PSOE) was the victor in the March 9 general
election, although it remains a minority government (seven
seats shy of a working majority in the 350-seat lower house
of parliament) that is dependent upon the support of other
parties to pass legislation. Zapatero kept most of the key
players in his Cabinet in their posts. First Vice President
and Minster of the Presidency Maria Teresa Fernandez de la
Vega is Zapatero's political deputy, while Second Vice
President and Minister of the Economy Pedro Solbes acts as
economic deputy. Miguel Angel Moratinos remained in place as
Minister of Foreign Affairs, and his former DG for Terrorism,
Nonproliferation, and Arms Control, Angel Lossada, was
promoted to the number two slot. Minister of Interior Alfredo
Perez Rubalcaba, was retained in his post, as was Magdalena
Alvarez, the Minister of Development (the counterpart to the
US Secretary for Transportation). The Defense portfolio was
among the Cabinet posts that were shuffled following the
start of Zapatero's second administration. Carme Cachon
became Spain's first-ever female Minister of Defense.

9. (SBU) You have an appointment scheduled with Foreign
Minister Moratinos, who is the second-longest serving Foreign
Minister since Spain's democratization. One of the key
players behind the Madrid 1991 Peace Conference and a former
EU Envoy for the Middle East Peace Process, he considers
himself an expert in Middle East policy. A career diplomat,
Moratinos joined the PSOE in 2000 and in 2004 and 2008 won
election as a Congressional delegate representing his
hometown of Cordoba. He is fluent in English.

10. (SBU) The delegation is also confirmed to meet with
Interior Minister Rubalcaba, one of the PSOE's most senior
figures and a Cabinet heavyweight. Interior Minister since
2006, he has long been Zapatero's main advisor on terrorism

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issues. He is also one of the six members of Zapatero's core
team that meets once a week to formulate policy. Rubalcaba
is regarded as a skilled negotiator and parliamentarian. One
of Rubalcaba's toughest jobs is to continue efforts to
overcome the historic rivalry between Spain's principal law
enforcement entities, the Civil Guard and National Police,
both of which fall under his direction. Rubalcaba earned
praise for how he handled the aftermath of ETA's bombing of a
Madrid airport parking garage in late 2006 and -- over
Zapatero's initial hesitations -- has adopted a hard line
against ETA since then. He speaks some English.

11. (SBU) The Embassy is seeking an appointment for the
delegation with Bernardino Leon, Moratinos' highly respected
former Deputy Foreign Minister (2004-08) whom Zapatero
personally recruited as his Secretary General of the Office
of the President in April of this year. A longtime Embassy
contact who projects a cooperative demeanor and focuses on
points of agreement, Leon in his new post has assumed many of
the responsibilities formerly held by Spain's equivalent to
the National Security Adviser. Zapatero has tasked Leon with
strengthening Spain's role in foreign policy in general, and
with the United States in particular. Leon speaks fluent

12. (SBU) Likewise, the Embassy has requested a meeting for
the delegation with Development Minister Alvarez, who is
responsible for the government's 15-year, 250-billion euro
plan to expand the AVE and road networks, which the GOS says
will give Spain more kilometers of high-speed rail lines than
any other country. In her current post since 2004, she was
a surprise choice to retain the position during Zapatero's
second term, but her fierce loyalty to him may have won the
day. Alvarez has had a contentious tenure, due in part to
delays in late 2007 and early 2008 in bringing the AVE to
Barcelona, which finally became operational on the eve of
Spain's 2008 election. In late 2007, the Catalan legislature
approved a motion calling for her resignation, as did the
national Senate. A similar motion in the more influential
lower house of the national parliament failed by only three
votes. She understands and speaks some English but prefers
not to use it in meetings,

13. (SBU) In Barcelona, the Consulate General is seeking to
confirm a meeting with Josep Lluis Carod-Rovira, Vice
President of Catalonia, where a tripartite government has
ruled since 2003. The coalition is led by the Catalan wing of
the PSOE, with support from two radical leftist parties:
Carod-Rovira's Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) -- which
advocates the peaceful independence of Catalonia from Spain
-- and the Catalan wing of the United Left (IU).
Carod-Rovira and the ERC have been a provactive junior
partner, with Carod Rovira causing a controversy in early
2004 for meeting with members of ETA about an offer to strike
a truce in Catalonia. He resigned his additional post as
President of the ERC following the party's poor performance
in the March 2008 national election. Carod-Rovira has been
the driving force to open a Catalan representational office
in New York City -- an initiative whose pricetag has sparked
public criticism -- and is expected to travel there for the
opening ceremony in January 2009. He does not speak English.


14. (SBU) Spain enjoyed one of the fastest growing economies
in Europe for roughly 15 years, but growth has slowed
significantly and Spain is projected to experience negative
growth in 2009. A housing boom that contributed greatly to
growth for several years ended abruptly last year, and prices
are stagnating, construction slowing, and unemployment and
inflation rising. U.S. investment has long been important to
the economy (more so than bilateral trade), but the tables
have turned. In 2007, Spain was the fourth-largest foreign
investor in the U.S., with particular emphasis in banking,
construction, and renewable energy. Since Zapatero was
re-elected, the GOS has faced a deepening economic slump.
Surging unemployment is at 11.3 percent. Inflation is at 3.5
percent. The economy may already be contracting, and 2009 is
expected to be an even more difficult year. Months of
worse-than-predicted economic news have led to widespread
criticism of Zapatero and his economic policymakers for their
upbeat predictions during the campaign and for having
downplayed the economic difficulties long after many others
were saying Spain was in a crisis. Public skepticism has
been aggravated by the failure of a series of GOS measures to
noticeably affect the slowdown and by Zapatero's efforts to
blame the U.S. subprime mortgage crisis for all of Spain's
troubles. Now that the budget surplus of the last four years

MADRID 00001186 004 OF 004

has become a rapidly growing deficit, tensions have
heightened over regional government financing issues and the
proposed austerity budget for 2009.


15. (SBU) Spanish military cooperation is important to the
U.S. The southern Spanish bases of Rota and Moron are
strategic hubs, midway between the U.S. and theaters of
operation in Afghanistan and Iraq. Spain has troops in
Lebanon (roughly 1,100), Afghanistan (750), Kosovo (500),
Bosnia (260), and a smattering of others in various UN & EU
observer missions. Elsewhere on the diplomatic front, Spain
in recent years has more often been a follower than a leader,
looking to stay within EU consensus on issues such as Iran
and missile defense. Spain has yet to recognize Kosovo and
is so far refusing to train or fund Kosovar security forces.
Nonetheless, its commitment to KFOR remains firm. Spain is
supportive of U.S. efforts towards Middle East peace. Driven
by the twin threats of terrorism and illegal immigration,
Spain is also increasing its engagement with the countries of
North and Western Africa. Spain invests heavily in Latin
America and wields significant influence there. Like the
U.S., Spain wants strong democratic and free market
institutions in the region. We have sharply differing views
on Cuba. Spain believes it can encourage change via
engagement. We take every opportunity to remind the Spanish
that the Cuban regime is only interested in survival and that
Cuban dissidents need and deserve the active and visible
support of democracies everywhere. On Venezuela, Spain
appears to be going ahead with the sale of four ocean-going
patrol ships and four Coast Guard-type high seas patrol ships
(plans to sell aircraft to Venezuela were scuttled when the
U.S. objected to the transfer of U.S. technology in the


16. (U) In general, Spain is safe. However, Madrid,
Barcelona and other large cities attract a large number of
criminals and pickpockets and frequent incidents of crime of
opportunity against the unwary do occur. It is best to carry
only essential items including a photocopy of your passport's
photo page. Visitors can protect themselves against crime by
being street-smart, alert and aware of their surroundings.
Travelers are encouraged to review the most recent Worldwide
Caution issued by the Department of State. As the Department
of State continues to develop information on any potential
security threats to Americans overseas, it shares credible
threat information through its Consular Information Program
documents, available on the Internet at
http://travel/ Additional information regarding
safety and security in Spain is available on the U.S.
Department of State's website (


17. (U) Again, we are looking forward to your visit. Amid
the current atmosphere in Spain of increased goodwill toward
the United States, we need to set the stage for
ever-improving cooperation in the fight against terrorism.
We face common threats; the Spanish Ministry of Foreign
Affairs, law enforcement and military services are capable,
and Spain sits in a strategic location. There is much we can
do together.

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