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Viewing cable 05MADRID703, SPANISH DEFENSE MINISTER TELEPHONES CHARGE ON

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05MADRID703 2005-02-24 13:01 2010-12-08 21:09 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 MADRID 000703

SIPDIS

FOR EUR/WE

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/24/2015
TAGS: PGOV PREL MOPS PTER SP
SUBJECT: SPANISH DEFENSE MINISTER TELEPHONES CHARGE ON
VENEZUELA SALE


Classified By: Charge d'Affaires J. Robert Manzanares,
reasons 1.4(b) and (d).

1. (C) Minister of Defense Jose Bono telephoned Charge
February 22 to explain Spain's decision to sell military and
civilian ships to Venezuela. Saying he wished to follow up
with Charge after Bono's appearance before Congress's defense
commission a day earlier (during which the Defense Minister
answered questions about the Venezuela sale and Spain's
Afghanistan deployment), Bono explained that Spain would
likely sell a petroleum-carrying vessel, a ship that
transports asphalt and five "patrol boats" to the Chavez
government. He emphasized the Spanish government has
received "assurances" from Caracas that the patrol ships will
not be used for offensive purposes, but would be used to
protect Venezuela's maritime borders and Exclusive Economic
Zone. (Note: Other sources have told us the ships are
actually corvettes capable of being armed with naval guns and
missiles. A press report indicated the vessels would be
similar to Spain's "Descubierta" class corevettes with a
displacement of 1,500-1,800 tons. End note.) The principal
reason Spain was making the sale to Venezuela -- reportedly
worth over 600 million euros (USD 780 million) -- was to give
a shot in the arm to ailing state-owned ship building firm
Izar. The sale would be "very significant for Izar," said
Bono, but would not tip the military balance in the region.
He also told Charge that the Zapatero government had
conferred with the Uribe government and the Colombians "did
not see major problems" with the sale.

2. (C) Comment: Bono likewise telephoned Charge from
Caracas when he made his unannounced "discreet" trip there in
late January to assure us he was not doing anything untoward.
His latest call is another indication that the GOS and Bono
in particular well understand U.S. concerns about Spain's
developing relations with the Chavez government. Despite
that, Izar's economic woes are front and center, driving
Spain's intense interest in selling ships to Venezuela. U.S.
concerns aside, Spain will likely move forward to take
advantage of an opportunity to tamp down labor unrest at the
state-owned company.
MANZANARES