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Cables from Madrid

Cable con opiniones de Trinidad Jiménez y Bernardino León sobre Latinoamérica
Enero de 2009. Jiménez considera que Daniel Ortega es el peor de todos los líderes con los que ha trabajado y León dice que es una “causa perdida”

10/12/2010 ID: 187673
Date: 2009-01-16 16:59:00
Origin: 09MADRID59
Source: Embassy Madrid
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Dunno: 08MADRID518 09MADRID1366 09MOSCOW20
Destination: VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMD #0059/01 0161659
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 161659Z JAN 09
FM AMEMBASSY MADRID
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0075
INFO RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 5399
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 0633
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 0396
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 1347
RUEHGT/AMEMBASSY GUATEMALA 1446
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ JAN MANAGUA 0272
RUEHME/AMEMBASSY MEXICO 0687
RUEHSP/AMEMBASSY PORT OF SPAIN 0189
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 1431
RUEHSN/AMEMBASSY SAN SALVADOR 1495
RUEHUB/USINT HAVANA 0279
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS

C O N F I D E N T I A L MADRID 000059

SIPDIS

FOR EUR/WE, ALSO FOR WHA/PPC

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/14/2019
TAGS: PREL, PGOV, KSUM, AR, BL, CU, SP
SUBJECT: JANUARY 8-9 VISIT BY WHA A/S SHANNON REAFFIRMS
U.S.-SPANISH PARTNERSHIP IN LATIN AMERICA

REF: A. MOSCOW 20
B. MADRID 1366
C. 08 MADRID 518

Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission Arnold A. Chacon, for reasons 1.
4(b) and (d).

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: A/S Shannon’s January 8-9 Madrid program and subsequent media play were characterized by bilateral goodwill and Spanish optimism for a new phase in U.S.-Spanish cooperation in Latin America despite significant challenges in the region. He highlighted U.S. engagement in the Americas, shared interests with Spain, and our outreach in Europe and Asia to countries with strategic interests in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Spanish also raised Gaza and the High-Level Meeting on Food Security taking place in Madrid later this month. END SUMMARY.

U.S., Spain, and Europe in Latin America
—————————————-

2. (C) Spanish Secretary of State for Iberoamerica Trinidad Jimenez hosted a lunch for A/S Shannon January 8. The conversational tour of the region set the stage for the remainder of A/S Shannon’s interactions, notably the breakfast colloquium January 9 at Casa de America and a 90-minute meeting with Secretary General of the Presidency Bernardino Leon, also January 9. At lunch and again before a public audience, Jimenez asserted that no two countries were more important to the future success of Latin America than the U.S. and Spain. She reviewed recent Spanish involvement in the region (Note: In what the press has called an effort to promote a closer relationship between Europe and Latin America, Jimenez traveled to Lisbon on January 13 and met with Portuguese FM Amado and the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation. She also received her Italian counterpart in Madrid on January 14. End note.)

3. (C) During his meeting with A/S Shannon, Leon suggested the Western Hemisphere was becoming more “global.” Leon cited the expulsion of Israel’s ambassador by Venezuelan President Chavez and Nicaragua’s September 2008 recognition of the breakaway Georgian republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Leon also expressed interest in the approach the new U.S. Administration would take to the region and offered GOS assistance during the transition. Leon said President-elect Obama had expressed his desire to consult with Spanish President Zapatero before making any big decisions on Latin America policy. (Note: In a January 13 radio interview Zapatero said he “hoped to have a deep conversation (with Obama) as soon as possible about conflict areas, as well as about Latin America, including Cuba,” but that the contacts would start after January 20. End note.)

4. (C) A/S Shannon told Leon that during the Secretary’s December 2008 trip to Panama for the first Pathways to Prosperity plenary, the U.S. had made efforts to engage with all countries in the region that had expressed interest in free trade. Leon raised the EU accords with Central America and Colombia. He lamented that Bolivia would likely be excluded due to the negative influence of Venezuela. Ecuador, he surmised, would want in on any trade agreement in order to protect banana exports.

MEXICO AND BRAZIL
—————–

5. (C) Jimenez praised the U.S. for focusing attention on Mexico’s border with Guatemala. Hearing that President-elect Obama would meet with Mexican President Calderon January 12, she called it a good initiative to form new institutional relationships. She expressed concern about Calderon’s capacity to fight corruption within his government but noted the widespread respect he commanded in the region.

6. (C) Leon and Jimenez were very upbeat about Brazil. Regarding Lula’s efforts on behalf of regional integration, Jimenez assured Shannon, “if it is good for Latin America, it is good for Spain.” She suggested Spain and the U.S. should see each other and also Brazil and Mexico as partners rather than rivals. Discarding the idea that the U.S. had been excluded from December meetings in Sauipe, Shannon praised Lula’s leadership and quoted the Secretary as calling Brazil “a regional power and a global partner.” Jimenez was also supportive of “a strong Brazil and an involved Mexico.”

CENTRAL AMERCIA
—————

7. (C) On Guatemala, both Jimenez and Leon expressed disappointment with Colom’s slowness in recognizing and confronting the problems of corruption and organized crime. Jimenez told A/S Shannon she would travel to Guatemala soon to address concerns over insecurity and drug violence. She said Spain would also add an Interior Ministry representative to its embassy in Guatemala to support the Spanish Civil Guard’s work in training Guatemalan national police. Leon noted the Guatemalan President had invited two Spanish advisors from the Office of the Presidency and suggested they should make contact with the U.S. Embassy there to exchange views. Leon was generally optimistic about Costa Rica, and opined that El Salvador would be okay following March 15 presidential elections, but noted it would be better if ARENA won. Leon described Nicaraguan President Ortega as a “lost cause.” He said Zapatero had refused to meet with Ortega during the October 2008 Latin American Summit in El Salvador. Jimenez called Ortega the worst of all the leaders with whom she works.

SOUTHERN CONE
————-

8. (C) Leon told Shannon the GOS supports the Marsans Group in its dispute with Aerolineas Argentinas but said Spain would take measures to improve the climate before the February 8 visit to Madrid of Argentine President Fernandez de Kirchner. Shannon said the U.S. had made enormous efforts to maintain a good relationship with Argentina, with mixed results. Leon agreed the Kirchner team was “lamentable,” and doubted Argentina’s “perverse system” could be fixed, yet he expressed hope that Argentines would one day reclaim their political space. He offered to deliver any messages the U.S. might wish during Fernandez Kirchner’s February visit. Leon said Spain was not worried about the outcome of Chilean elections, but expressed disappointment in Paraguayan President Lugo.

ANDES
—–

9. (C) Leon noted Ecuador’s need to be more competitive to make up for the loss of its oil income. Saying he was hopeful about Ecuadorian President Correa, he conceded his first impression, at the time of Ecuador’s expropriation of foreign oil companies, had been decidedly negative. He observed Correa continued to manipulate debt and market access issues for his own political gain, and he opined the Ecuadorian President needed a positive “mentor” in the region.

10. (C) Referring to Ecuador’s March 2008 border conflict with Colombia and Correa’s subsequent European tour, Leon expressed lingering frustration with Correa’s propensity to express “barbarities” after a carefully managed and very moderate joint statement with President Zapatero. In the context of balancing Colombian concerns, Leon mentioned Ecuador’s request for assistance with air traffic control radar. Leon and A/S Shannon agreed that improved civil aviation control was essential to ensure regional stability in the Andean corridor. Jimenez deemed Venezuelan President Chavez to be weakened, as evidenced by moving up the Venezuelan referendum.

CUBA

—-

11. (C) In his conversations with both Jimenez and Leon, A/S Shannon noted Cuba’s long resistance to democratic change, and said the U.S., Spain, and other countries must continue to promote such change, pressing consistently for freedom for political prisoners and political space for a democratic opposition. Jimenez mentioned the difficulties of negotiating with the GOC, as in the case of humanitarian aid offers in the wake of hurricanes Ike and Gustav, but insisted it was important to make such gestures even if Cuba ultimately refused them. Anticipating the third round of EU-Cuba human rights talks January 15-16, Jimenez said the Czechs (holding the EU Presidency) did not appear interested in sending messages. Spain, on the other hand, wanted to find the “right formula,” presumably not a public one, to speak of pluralism and to visit dissidents. Jimenez said she might travel to Cuba in May 2009 and joked that, looking to the June review of the EU’s common position on Cuba, the U.S. ought to give the Czechs instructions that would be helpful to Spain’s efforts. Jimenez expounded on what she called the discrepancies between Miami and Washington approaches to Cuba and argued that the U.S. transition was “the best excuse” for a change in U.S. policy.

12. (C) Leon asked A/S Shannon to convey Spain’s intention to work closely with the U.S. on any possible Spanish presidential visit to Cuba. He did not discard the possibility Zapatero could travel to Cuba in 2009, but he noted Zapatero had backtracked following conflicting public statements by GOS officials. Jimenez retreated further, saying perhaps Zapatero would not visit in 2009 but that a visit would be reasonable during this legislature (which ends in 2012) if it could help promote change in Cuba.

AREAS FOR COOPERATION
——————–

13. (SBU) Leon asked about the prospects for extending the Merida Initiative to Central America. A/S Shannon said that $60 million in funding from the first tranche of $465 million was slated for Central America. An additional $150 million was requested for Central America in the FY-2009 budget request. Director General of Cooperation with Iberoamerica Consuelo Femenia joined Jimenez’ lunch for A/S Shannon and briefed on Spain’s assistance programs in the hemisphere.
Femenia spoke of Spanish emphasis on governability, gender issues, and the health sector and noted the importance of continuity of development aid in countries like Bolivia, where Spain’s bilateral plans are in limbo. While Jimenez said Spain had not restricted cooperation to Bolivia, the GOS was conscious of the need to make assistance more “efficient.” To that end, lunch attendees espoused the benefits of triangular cooperation. A/S Shannon called for increased coherence among assistance programs. He suggested the U.S. and Spain review opportunities for triangular cooperation.

GAZA AND FOOD SECURITY
———————-

14. (C) Gaza crept into discussions of Latin America. Leon described FM Moratinos’s planned trip the week of January 12 to Egypt, Israel, Syria, and the West Bank. A/S Shannon encouraged Leon to stay in touch with U.S. officials on the Middle East to maintain an exchange of views (Note: Moratinos reached out the Secretary by telephone January 15 to describe his trip. End note). Leon also pulled A/S Shannon aside to stress the importance to the GOS attaches to the UN High-Level Meeting on Food Security in Madrid January
26-27.

CASA DE AMERICA
—————

15. (U) A/S Shannon and Jimenez drew a standing-room only crowd for an on the record breakfast colloquium January 9 at

Casa de America (the Spanish Government’s influential cultural institute for Latin America). A/S Shannon spoke of seeking new partners and opening new space for democracy and economic opportunity in Latin America. He noted the U.S. and Spain shared a strategic vision in the region. He acknowledged that Spain and the U.S. might differ on tactics in some cases but emphasized shared goals. He stressed the need to work not just with Latin American countries but with all countries who have strategic interests in the region. Asked whether 2009 would be the year of Cuba, Jimenez expressed hope for a change of U.S. attitude but commented the future of the embargo depended on gestures from both sides. A/S Shannon in turn insisted on the importance of the international community actively promoting democratic change. He emphasized it was more than just meeting dissidents during visits to the island, important though that was.
Countries needed to work collaboratively and consistently with the dissidents to help them create space for a democratic opposition.

MEDIA HOMERUNS
————–

16. (U) A/S Shannon granted interviews to the three leading media outlets. Left-of-center daily El Pais (circulation 2.2 million), published a full page interview January 11. A/S Shannon participated in the live broadcast Cadena Ser Radio program “La Ventana” (average listenership 750,000).
Number-one ranked Television Espanola (TVE) recorded an interview with A/S Shannon for its regular program “Barrio Latino.” The show will air January 20 and will reach audiences throughout Spain and Latin America on January 20.
In each interview, A/S Shannon laid out U.S. policy in Latin America and strongly defended the USG’s engagement with the region in recent years. Topics of particular interest to the media included U.S. policy towards Cuba and Venezuela, prospects for trade and investment in the region given the economic crisis, drug trafficking and the Merida Initiative, and the perceived rise of leftist/populist leaders in several Latin American countries. Leading journalists and directors of Spanish news wire service EFE also participated in the colloquium January 9.

COMMENT
——-

17. (C) Spanish views continue to resonate with our own on most things Latin American. The GOS expresses frustration with the same leaders and situations that are of greatest concern to us. On Cuba, where we have our greatest tactical differences, Spain is watching closely for signals from the new U.S. Administration and hopes to consult closely on the issue. Throughout the Western Hemisphere, Spain seems genuinely interested in working with the U.S., and the Merida Initiative may present a unique opportunity to do so if we can move beyond Spanish good intentions to concrete actions.
The Spanish are increasingly aware that many of Latin America’s ills, such as narcotics trafficking, impact them as much or more than the U.S. A/S Shannon’s visit was an extremely well-timed and typically effective push in the right direction. For historical and cultural reasons, Spain likes to regard Latin America as something of a special preserve and itself as the opinion leader within Europe. Nevertheless, Spanish officials such as Leon and Jimenez are keenly aware of the preponderant U.S. influence in the region and are anxious to maintain the fluid dialogue that has been established in recent years. The Zapatero Administration is likely to maintain its preference for low key diplomacy in dealing with problem countries in Latin America, but that is not say we cannot have a mutually-beneficial partnership in the region.

18. (U) A/S Shannon cleared this cable.
AGUIRRE

Cable en que el ex presidente del Gobierno José María Aznar opina sobre Latinoamérica
Aznar considera que Cristina Fernández “es una marioneta de su marido” y pide que se aísle a Chávez y se vigile la influencia china y musulmana en Venezuela

10/12/2010

ID: 153230
Date: 2008-05-09 16:22:00
Origin: 08MADRID518
Source: Embassy Madrid
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Dunno:
Destination: VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMD #0518/01 1301622
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 091622Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY MADRID
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4739
INFO RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 5352
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 0627
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 0381
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 1292
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ MAY LIMA 1905
RUEHME/AMEMBASSY MEXICO 0670
RUEHSP/AMEMBASSY PORT OF SPAIN 0172
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 1413
RUEHSN/AMEMBASSY SAN SALVADOR 1491
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO 0517
RUEHUB/USINT HAVANA 0270

C O N F I D E N T I A L MADRID 000518

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/05/2018
TAGS: PREL, KSUM, AR, BL, CO, CU, PE, SP
SUBJECT: WHA ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHANNON’S VISIT TO MADRID,
APRIL 30-MAY 1, 2008

Classified By: CHARGE D’AFFAIRES HUGO LLORENS, REASONS 1.4(B) AND (D).

1. (C) WHA Assistant Secretary Tom Shannon visited Madrid April 30-May 1, 2008. He met with Secretary General of the Presidency Bernardino Leon and former President Jose Maria
Aznar. He also attended a lunch in his honor hosted by Charge d’ Affaires Hugo Llorens with Spanish private sector, media, and government experts on Latin America and gave interviews to daily El Pais and with Antena 3 TV. Leon stressed the need for the U.S. and Spain to work together in Latin America. Aznar emphasized the importance of Colombia and Mexico and urged the U.S. to maintain strong support for both. Both Leon and Aznar expressed concerns about Argentina.

Leon Stresses Desire to Work with U.S. in Latin America
——————————————— ———-

2. (C) A/S Shannon and CDA Llorens met April 30 with newly installed Secretary General of the Presidency (and former MFA number two) Bernardino Leon. A/S Shannon told Leon the U.S. wanted to maintain continuity in policy towards Latin America through the next Administration. He emphasized the importance of strategic partners such as Spain, and thanked Leon for the effort he and MFA Secretary of State Trinidad Jimenez had made to work with the U.S. Leon said President Zapatero would need to make Latin America a foreign policy priority and work it intensively. He suggested this was an area where Spain and the U.S. should coordinate closely and at the most senior levels. He said the strategic effort should be to work closely with countries such as Brazil,

Chile, Colombia, and Mexico. Looking ahead to the new Zapatero administration, Leon predicted the opposition Popular Party (PP) might be more conciliatory than in the past. He said Zapatero would put more emphasis on foreign policy, and he stressed that good relations with the U.S. would be a priority. Leon mentioned he had met recently with foreign policy advisors to all three U.S. Presidential candidates. He suggested both governments should begin thinking about a meeting between Presidents Bush and Zapatero in September at the UNGA. Leon noted that this meeting with A/S Shannon was the first he had held with anyone outside the Spanish Government since assuming his new post.

3. (C) A/S Shannon explained the U.S. was looking forward to two key events: the OAS General Assembly (OASGA) in Medellin in June 2008 where the Deputy Secretary would lead the U.S. delegation and the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago in April 2009. He noted Mexico and others were working to reduce tensions between Colombia and Ecuador in advance of the OASGA as well as to avoid disruptions by Venezuelan President Chavez. A/S Shannon said the Summit of the Americas would be the new U.S. President’s first multilateral event with Latin America, and a major goal would be to put the summit process back on a positive track after the Mar de Plata experience. He indicated the Administration would continue to push its free trade agenda.

4. (C) Leon said Argentina was very worrisome. Spanish companies in Argentina were concerned by the populist tone of the government, political polarization, and the level of corruption. There were “complicated” people and movements around the presidency. He suggested some lived by the old adage that “a politician who is poor is a poor politician.”

He said there was much work for Spain and the U.S. to do with respect to Argentina and complemented President Bush for setting a positive tone with President Cristina Fernandez Kirchner. A/S Shannon mentioned that he had recently visited Argentina and that in June a USG team would visit Buenos Aires to reinitiate the lapsed high-level dialogue. The goal was to define the bilateral relationship by shared interests rather than by differences. He predicted strife between various Argentine sectors was just beginning; the agricultural strike was merely the first round. He said the Peronist tendency once a crisis was past was to look for wealth and figure out how to spend it. Ironically, the more complicated internal situation might lead the government to seek to mend fences internationally. He said the costs of too close association with Chavez were now clear to the GOA, as evidenced by Chavez’s recent decision to nationalize the Argentine firm SIDOR.

5. (C) Leon said Spain hoped to use the EU-Latin America and the Caribbean summit in Lima in May to seek a trade pact where those Latin American countries who wanted in could be in and those who wanted out could stay out. The goal was to keep a country like Bolivia or Ecuador from dragging down the others. A/S Shannon noted this might help with the U.S. Congress on the free trade issue.

6. (C) Leon said a post-Uribe Colombia raised concerns, although there were sensible people on the left (e.g., Polo Democratico leader Gaviria). He noted that post-Uribe, especially if the situation in Peru deteriorated, the Andean region would be even more problematic. He said Peru was a very key country.

7. (C) Leon said he was worried about Bolivia and the threat to Spanish business interests there. He predicted Morales would lose the May 4 referendum. A/S Shannon said the U.S. was looking past May 4 and talking to the group of friends (Argentina, Brazil, and Colombia) as well as the Vatican. He predicted the referendum results would provide greater legitimacy to the state governors and blunt the GOB’s criticism of the opposition and the U.S. (he noted wryly that the GOB had blasted the U.S. Ambassador at the same time the Bolivian FM was in the U.S. seeking USG assistance). A/S Shannon said the governors needed to exercise caution and not be overly aggressive. The U.S. message was that we supported dialogue but not secession. He doubted secession would come to pass. He said the U.S. was also talking to the armed forces and urging them to work within the constitution. He noted the military understood the risk to it as an institution. Leon asked if the GOB was arming civilians. A/S Shannon replied that some such activity was possible, but he doubted it was on a large scale. He said some Morales advisors might be pushing confrontation in order to paint the provinces as rebellious, but the U.S. message was that the provinces had to work within the confines of the law. He noted the Bolivian FM was in Washington recently and tried without success to interest the OAS Permanent Council in a resolution condemning the provinces. Leon said Spain’s message was complimentary: territorial integrity but respect for the provinces as political units.

8. (C) A/S Shannon noted New Mexico Governor Richardson had recently visited Caracas in connection with the three Americans in the hands of the FARC. Chavez told him the U.S. should help Morales and work with the governors to make sure Morales was not backed into a corner. This was unusual given Venezuela had in the past urged on Morales. It appeared Chavez might be genuinely worried about the turn matters could take in Bolivia. Leon said he too was nervous about the situation. He noted Spain would regard a deployment of troops or police to the oil installations as a very bad sign.

9. (C) Leon said it was essential that the next Iberoamerican summit (El Salvador in November 2008) move beyond the famous incident in Chile between King Juan Carlos and Chavez. He mentioned Zapatero would see Chavez in Lima to try and set the stage for a more positive summit. Regardless, there were no guarantees someone would not seek confrontation in El Salvador.

Aznar Looks to Colombia and Mexico
———————————-

10. (C) A/S Shannon and CDA Llorens also met April 30 with former President Jose Maria Aznar. Aznar said he was worried about Latin America. He described what he called an anti-NAFTA, anti-Colombia FTA theme in the U.S. Presidential primaries. At the same time, he criticized an excessive emphasis on free trade and open markets in dealing with Latin America. Both were fundamental, but the U.S. also needed to focus on how it could isolate Chavez and also should keep a wary eye on Chinese and Muslim influence in Venezuela. He argued the U.S. and the EU needed to articulate a policy more understandable to the common people and more comprehensive. A/S Shannon agreed on the need to support civil society and NGOs in Latin America. He said many people in the U.S. had a view of Latin America frozen in the 1990s, but the region was changing rapidly. The U.S. and Spain should be looking for catalytic ways of supporting democratic governance, civil society, and economic development. He noted that in the past the U.S. had sometimes ignored Latin America until a crisis arose; in contrast, President Bush had a record of solid engagement in the region.

11. (C) Aznar mentioned he had spoken with Mexican President Calderon before the New Orleans summit and Calderon had expressed concern about waning Congressional support for NAFTA and the Merida initiative. Aznar said failure of the Colombia FTA would be catastrophic. He said Uribe was the best friend the U.S. had in Latin America, and the end of the FARC was in sight. He noted both Chavez and Ecuadorian President Correa were implicated by information obtained as a result of the GOC operation against Raul Reyes. It was more important now than ever for the U.S. to support Colombia. Aznar said Colombia and Mexico were the key countries in the region. Aznar said the U.S. and Spain should be working together to get Mexico to be more active regionally. Although Brazilian regional engagement was positive, it needed to be complemented by more Mexican engagement. He urged the U.S. to continue supporting both Colombia and Mexico, saying that if Calderon and Uribe were successful, it would shift the entire region in a positive direction. A/S Shannon briefed Aznar on the Administration’s continuing efforts to win approval for the FTA with Colombia as well as the Merida initiative, which represented a very constructive U.S. response to the concerns of Mexico and Central America regarding security and law enforcement. He also briefed Aznar on the New Orleans meetings and the emphasis Presidents Bush and Calderon and PM Harper put on a common vision for trade, security, and border management.

12. (C) Despite his worries for the region, Aznar noted many countries were doing well. He cited Chile, Panama, and Peru. Aznar said the electoral results in Paraguay were a good step; the ideological leanings of the new government would not make much of a difference. Aznar said Brazil appeared to have put populism firmly behind it. He described Lula as a mainstream figure, albeit one who presented a friendlier face to the disadvantaged. He urged that the U.S. and Spain support good governance regardless of whether it came from the left or the right.

13. (C) Aznar said the situation in Argentina was very complicated. They appeared to be reverting to the vicious cycles of Peronism in which sectors with money were shaken down by the government. One interesting sign was the emergence of a more critical middle class, but Cristina Fernandez Kirchner was a disappointment. He had once hoped she would conduct a more sophisticated foreign policy, but she appeared now to be a puppet of her husband. A/S Shannon said Argentina was underperforming in terms of attracting foreign investment and was conducting an erroneous foreign policy. The last six years had seen economic improvement, but the Peronists again seemed to be looking for the money. Aznar agreed the growth had been notable, sustained in large part by favorable international commodity prices, but he said the recovery remained fragile. The GOA lacked credibility with the international business community, and the Argentine banking sector was weak. A/S Shannon hoped Argentina had learned a lesson from Venezuela’s nationalization of the steel company SIDOR. Playing with Chavez was a good way to get burned. Nevertheless, he noted the GOA, for all its faults, was not in the same camp as Chavez. A/S Shannon and Aznar agreed it was important for the U.S. and Spain to remain actively engaged with the GOA and maintain a dialogue with it. A/S Shannon noted his recent visit there and the resumption of a regular, formal dialogue between the USG and GOA. Aznar applauded the initiative.

14. (C) Aznar praised President Bush’s strong stance in support of a democratic transition in Cuba and his most recent speech on the subject. He said we needed to monitor carefully the steps Raul Castro was taking, some of which were in the right direction. Nevertheless, both the U.S. and the EU needed to stay on the record as promoting democratic transition and openly supporting civil society and the dissidents. A/S Shannon noted the GOC was attempting to isolate the U.S. Aznar said anything the U.S., EU, and Spain could do to publicize the truth on Cuba would help. He cited the recent crackdown on the Damas de Blanco, noting the news in Cuba was more than just cell phones and computers. The public needed to know what was really happening. He said that was the way to keep the pressure on Raul Castro, whom he said should not be allowed to consolidate power. Fidel would continue to be an immobilizing element as long as he lived, but when he died, it might set in motion events Raul could
not control.

Experts’ Lunch
————–

15. (C) Lunch at the CDA’s residence brought together a variety of Latin America experts: Roman Escolano of BBVA; Jaime Malet of the Amcham; Alberto Carnero of FAES; Asis Martin de Cabiedes of Europa Press, Juan Luis Cebrian of Grupo Prisa, and Eduardo San Martin of ABC; and Javier Sandomingo, MFA Director General for Iberoamerica. The discussion was off the record and vigorous. Topics included Cuba, Venezuela, Mexico, the Colombia FTA, and Argentina. Sandomingo made a point of saying during the lunch and again afterwards in private that Spain would strongly prefer the U.S. did not try to split EU opinion on Cuba. A/S Shannon emphasized the need for the international community to work together for meaningful democratic change and to continue to reach out to civil society and the dissidents. Several of the guests unconsciously echoed Leon’s and Aznar’s concerns about Argentina. Views on Venezuela were negative, especially on the economic situation. A/S Shannon used the opportunity to describe the Merida initiative, and he heard strong expressions of support for a U.S. FTA with Colombia.

Comment
——-

16. (C) We were especially struck by the emphasis Bernardino Leon laid on cooperation with the U.S. in Latin America. His move from MFA to the Presidency is rumored to have been prompted by Zapatero’s dissatisfaction with the functioning of his first-term foreign policy apparatus. Reportedly his “odd man out” experience at the NATO Summit in Bucharest was the last straw. Leon is a credible player on foreign affairs and well-disposed towards the U.S. Having him in a key position at the Presidency bodes well as does the resonance of Spanish views with our own on most things Latin American.

Cuba will continue to be the exception, at least when it comes to tactics, but on a great many other important issues in the Western Hemisphere we believe Spain is genuinely interested in working with the U.S. and highly values A/S Shannon’s continuing attention. Aznar remains well-briefed on Latin America, knows the players, and frequently travels to the region, all good reasons for U.S. officials to stay in touch with him.

Llorens

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