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Viewing cable 05MADRID569, ZAPATERO VENEZUELA POLICY PERPLEXES SPANISH MFA

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05MADRID569 2005-02-11 16:04 2010-12-10 12:12 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Madrid
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MADRID 000569

SIPDIS

FOR EUR/WE, WHA/AND, EUR/ERA, S/CT

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/11/2015
TAGS: PREL PGOV PTER SP CO VE
SUBJECT: ZAPATERO VENEZUELA POLICY PERPLEXES SPANISH MFA
OFFICIALS

REF: STATE 25063

Classified By: Political Counselor Kathleen M. Fitzpatrick,
reasons 1.4(b) and (d).

1. (C) Summary: The Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs'
chief official for Andean countries informed poloff February
9 that a majority of officials at the MFA are as perplexed as
the U.S. is at President Jose Luis Rodriquez Zapatero's
policy of building closer relations with Venezuela's Hugo
Chavez. Juan Carlos Sanchez (please protect) explained
Zapatero's Venezuela policy is being run from Moncloa and the
MFA is left to try to influence the policy as much as
possible. Most MFA officials, according to Sanchez, see no
benefits and only downsides for Spain in closer relations
with Venezuela. They understand Zapatero's moves do not work
to promote democracy or stability in the region and will only
serve to further strain relations with the U.S., Colombia and
other countries in the region. End summary.

2. (C) Poloff met February 9 with Sanchez, the MFA's Deputy
Director General for the Andean Community (DAS-equivalent) to
discuss Spain's policy toward Venezuela and Colombia.
(Sanchez replaced Ernesto de Zulueta as the Andean DDG in
December 2004). Poloff began the meeting telling Sanchez
that in general the U.S. was extremely perplexed at Spain's
developing relationship with Venezuela and Hugo Chavez, and
believed the Spanish government was on the wrong side of the
equation in terms of promoting democracy in the region and
avoiding conflicts between Venezuela and Colombia.

3. (C) In a surprisingly frank reply, Sanchez (please
protect) said he and "the great majority" of his colleagues
in the Foreign Ministry were "equally perplexed" at
Zapatero's moves to build closer relations with Chavez. He
specifically noted (again, please protect) that more senior
officials involved with Latin American affairs at the MFA
share this view. Sanchez, who has served in Caracas,
explained that neither he nor many others in the MFA saw any
benefit accruing to Spain from Zapatero's policy, rather
quite the opposite: Zapatero's cozying up to Chavez will
only needlessly anger the United States and Colombia. "We
don't understand the policy or the reason for it," remarked
Sanchez.

4. (C) On Zapatero's canceling of a planned stop in Caracas
during his recent visit to South America, Sanchez said the
MFA strongly urged Zapatero not to make the stop, believing
it would be a serious mistake, but in the end it was
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe's direct intervention with
Zapatero (somewhat heated, according to Sanchez) that
ultimately led Zapatero to cancel the stop. Sanchez said he
and his MFA colleagues were at a loss to explain why Zapatero
then "secretly" sent Minister of Defense Bono to Caracas. If
the purpose of the visit was to lobby Chavez to purchase
military ships from Spain's ailing Izar shipyards, the
prevailing view at the MFA is that placating, probably only
temporarily, Izar's agitated ship workers was not worth
damaging Spain's relations with the U.S., Colombia and
others.

5. (C) Moreover, Sanchez emphasized, selling any kind of
armaments to Venezuela at this time "makes no sense at all,"
particularly in light of the Zapatero government's decision
in 2004 to cancel the sale of "a few second or third hand
tanks" to Colombia, purportedly because Madrid was concerned
the sale could upset the military balance between Venezuela
and Colombia. "If Bono had justified canceling the sale
based on the idea that tanks are not well suited to fighting
an insurgency, that would be one thing," said Sanchez, "but
having canceled the sale supposedly to avoid tipping the
military balance in the region, we at the MFA understand how
incongruous discussions with Venezuela about purchasing
armaments from Spain now look."

6. (C) Sanchez said that Venezuela policy is being run out
of Moncloa (the presidency) and that the MFA is left trying
to influence the policy as much as possible. "The MFA wants
relations with the U.S. repaired, not further damaged by a
policy of building closer relations to Hugo Chavez, which
produces no tangible benefits for Spain," said Sanchez. The
MFA understands the U.S. also strongly disagrees with Spain's
Cuba policy, but the MFA feels it can articulate a reasonable
basis for the Zapatero government's position on Cuba. "There
is no reasonable basis for our Venezuela policy," said
Sanchez. The MFA understands Spain should be on the right
side of democracy and regional security, and that Venezuela
is going in the wrong direction. The MFA is doing its best
to persuade Moncloa of this.

7. (C) Poloff said the U.S. strongly urges Zapatero not to
visit Caracas in March as we understand he is tentatively
planning to do. Sanchez replied that the MFA understands the
U.S. position and is seeking to postpone the visit. At a
minimum, the MFA wants to see Zapatero visit Bogota on the
same trip if Zapatero does go to Caracas in March.

8. (C) Poloff's conversation with Sanchez took place before
we received reftel concerning Venezuelan attempts to purchase
certain armaments. We will follow up with both the MFA and
Moncloa on the arms question, and more generally on further
developments in the Zapatero government's evolving policy
toward Venezuela.

MANZANARES