Cablegate: Scenesetter for Codel Nelson Visit to Spain Dec.


DE RUEHMD #1291/01 3441112
P 091112Z DEC 08




E.O. 12958: N/A
12-13 AND 19-20


1. (U) Embassy Madrid warmly welcomes your visit to Spain.
U.S.-Spanish relations are strong and based on shared
interests, including the fight against terrorism, the
bilateral military relationship, our association in NATO, and
rapidly expanding economic ties. The Spaniards you meet will
be eager to share their assessment of financial developments,
Latin American issues, and bilateral relations. Our
elections were closely followed here, and a strong atmosphere
of goodwill and optimism has emerged for increasingly closer
bilateral relations and cooperation.


2. (SBU) Spain is an important friend and ally of the U.S.,
and we value its cooperation. The fights
against terrorism, narcotics, and human trafficking are
cornerstones of our bilateral relationship. 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 need to be innovative in
finding new and improved avenues for bilateral and
multilateral cooperation against the threats we both face.
Since winning a second term in March 2008, President Zapatero
has publicly and privately stressed his desire to further
improve bilateral relations. The relationship will be of
increasing importance when Spain takes over the EU presidency
in January 2010.


3. (SBU) President Zapatero's center-left Spanish Socialist
Workers' Party (PSOE) is seven seats shy of a majority in the
350-seat congress. The opposition Popular Party (PP) also
gained seats in the March 9 general elections and has
retained losing presidential candidate Mariano Rajoy as its
leader, though the party has suffered from internal
divisions. Zapatero kept most of the key players in his
cabinet in their posts. Miguel Angel Moratinos has remained
Minister of Foreign Affairs. The most prominent change was
that Carme Chacon became Spain's first-ever female Minister
of Defense; she is described in the press as a possible
eventual successor to Zapatero.


4. (SBU) Since Zapatero was re-elected, the Government of
Spain has faced a deepening economic slump. After 15 years
of rapid economic growth, the end last year of a long
construction boom has led to surging unemployment (almost 13
percent). The international credit crisis has aggravated the
situation, as Spain's high current account deficit leaves it
dependent on now-scarce crossborder lending. It is widely
assumed that the economy is already in a recession, and GDP
is expected to contract further in 2009. 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. Despite the economic
difficulties, Spain has not faced the same financial turmoil
that other developed countries have seen, and no Spanish
banks have gone under. Spain is emerging as one of the
leading foreign investors in the U.S. in recent years with
significant investment in the banking, wind and solar power,
ethanol, road construction, foods, and insurance sectors.
President Zapatero argued that Spain deserved a place at the
November 15 G-20 financial summit even though it was not a
G-20 member. He made it a matter of national pride to attend
and succeeded in participating as a result of the
intervention of French President Sarkozy. Zapatero has
spoken often of the importance of coordinated European and
U.S. action in facing the financial crisis.


5. (SBU) Spain wields significant influence in Latin America,
where its businesses have invested heavily. Like the U.S.,
Spain wants strong democratic and free market institutions in
the region. We have sharply differing views on Cuba, as
Spain believes it can encourage change via engagement with
the Castro regime, but we seek the same end result. Spain is
home to the second largest Cuban expatriate population after
the United States, with an estimated 82,000 Cuban nationals.

Spain shares our concerns and generally acts with the
European Union on democracy and good governance in Bolivia
and Nicaragua. 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 aircraft.
Spanish-Venezuelan relations are now "normalized" following
the highly publicized November 2007 IberoAmerican Summit
during which King Juan Carlos famously told Venezuelan
President Chavez to "shut up." Chavez visited Spain and made
public amends with the King in July 2008. Spanish companies
have had major problems with Argentina's government,
including the nationalizations of Aerolineas Argentinas from
the Spanish Marsans group and of the private pension funds,
one of which is owned by BBVA. Spanish officials have
expressed hope that the USG will increase engagement with
Latin America in the coming years, sometimes alleging that it
was abandoned after 9/11.


6. (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 (780), Kosovo (500),
Bosnia (260), and a smattering of others in various UN & EU
observer missions. Although the Afghan NATO mission is not
popular with the Spanish public, the GOS clearly expects the
incoming U.S. Administration to request an increased Spanish
effort there. Defense Minister Chacon has talked publicly of
the need to remove the GOS self-imposed cap of 3,000 military
deployed overseas, but at the same time GOS officials have
stressed that the solution in Afghanistan cannot be purely
military and that a new strategy is needed. 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. Concerned about
setting a precedent for Spanish separatists, Spain has not
recognized Kosovo and declines 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. The seizure by Somali
pirates of a Spanish fishing ship in April led to a ransom
payment and sparked GOS interest in addressing piracy. Spain
is planning to send a frigate and an oiler to join an EU
mission off Somalia and already has patrol planes operating
there. Spain is a good customer for U.S. defense items and
one of the largest Foreign Military Sales (FMS) customers in
Europe, with more than $2.58 billion in purchases from 1997
to 2007. The Spanish military often favors U.S. equipment,
and in recent years, Spain has made politically difficult
decisions to buy U.S.-made combat systems for its S-80
submarines and F-100 frigates (Spain uses the AEGIS system).
It also negotiated the purchase of Tomahawk missiles, a deal
notified to the U.S. Congress in June 2008 but on hold due to
Spanish defense budget constraints.


7. (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.
The March 11, 2004, train bombings killed 191 persons and
injured nearly 2,000 more, making it the second-deadliest
terror attack in European history. 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.

8. (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. Spain has hosted a number
of Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (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 exercises -- to combat
nuclear terrorism. Our 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 combat the target-rich
environment of terrorist and criminal activities in the
region, which has been the site of more than a dozen raids on
suspected radical Islamists since 9/11, including the
dismantlement in January 2008 of a cell with ties to Al-Qaeda
that intended to attack Barcelona's subway system.


9. (SBU) Overflights - The issue of so-called "illegal CIA
flights" carrying terrorism suspects to Guantanamo has been
prominent in the Spanish media in recent days. The reports
are muddled and contain a fair amount of innuendo. They
suggest that the Aznar government allowed the transport of
terrorism detainees to Guantanamo via Spain. The reports
also confuse the so-called CIA flights with routine U.S.
military flights via Spain (roughly 4,000 a year). We and
the GOS have tried to make it clear that the U.S. military
has done nothing illegal and has fully respected our
bilateral agreements regarding military flights, which would
include seeking the informed consent of the Spanish
government for any flight carrying controversial cargo or
passengers. Unfortunately, this controversy often leaves us
in the position of trying to prove a negative. If asked
about this by the media, we suggest making the point that the
U.S. places a high value on relations with Spain and pays
scrupulous attention to the notification and flight clearance
requirements contained in our bilateral agreements

10. (SBU) Possible VP Biden Visit - The Spanish press have
reported extensively on President Zapatero's lack of a
meeting with President Bush and the lack of a Zapatero White
House visit (until last month's G-20 financial summit). They
followed closely statements during the presidential campaign
by Senators Obama and McCain and their spokesmen about the
possibility of meeting with Zapatero. The GOS has made clear
its pleasure with the result of the election, and it may have
unrealistic expectations about how soon the new President
will visit Spain or Zapatero Washington. Spanish officials
told reporters recently that Vice President-elect Biden told
Zapatero in a November 17 phone conversation that he would
visit Spain shortly after taking office to discuss the global
financial crisis. The Vice President-elect also was said to
have mentioned the importance the President-elect places on
bilateral relations and highlighted the possibility for
cooperation on Latin America. We have not heard any
confirmation of this from U.S. sources and have told
reporters that we cannot speak for the incoming


11. (U) In general, Spain is safe. However, Madrid 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 (


12. (U) Again, we are looking forward to your visit. Amid
the current atmosphere of increased goodwill toward the
United States, we want to set the stage for continuing
improvements in bilateral cooperation. There is much we can
do together.

© Scoop Media

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