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Viewing cable 05MADRID1585, SPANISH DEFENSE MINISTRY: "TRUST US ON VENEZUELA

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05MADRID1585 2005-04-22 17:05 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 SECTION 01 OF 02 MADRID 001585

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EUR/WE AND WHA/AND
DEFENSE FOR OSD/ISP (P. GRAFF)

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/22/2015
TAGS: PREL PGOV PTER SP
SUBJECT: SPANISH DEFENSE MINISTRY: "TRUST US ON VENEZUELA
SALE"

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

1. (C) Summary: Secretary of State for Defense (deputy
minister equivalent) Francisco Pardo called a meeting with
Charge April 20 to discuss Spain's plan to sell ships and
planes to Venezuela. Pardo said the Zapatero government
wanted to be as transparent as possible on the sale but was
frustrated that "third parties" were using the sale to drive
the U.S. and Spain apart. Spain is not selling corvette
class vessels to Venezuela and none of the ships Spain sells
will have offensive capabilities, declared Pardo. Although
admitting the ships' configuration has not yet been
determined, Pardo said the Spanish government deserves the
United States' trust that Spain "will do the right thing."
Pardo hoped the Venezuela issue would not be the focus of
Defense Mininster Bono's May 3 meeting with Secretary
Rumsfeld, and would not overshadow areas of strong U.S.-Spain
cooperation, such as Afghanistan. End summary.

2. (C) Pardo told Charge (who was joined by defense attache
and pol-miloff) he called the meeting "in the interest of
transparency" and to avoid "manipulations" of information
about the Venezuela sale by third parties. The Zapatero
government and the defense ministry wanted to be "as clear as
possible" with the U.S. on what the Venezuela sale involved
and did not involve, because others, such as the opposition
Popular Party, were using the Venezuela sale to "drive a
wedge" between the Zapatero government and the U.S.
government. Pardo said he was "very bothered" that third
parties have created a problem where there shouldn't be one."

3. (C) Pardo then complained that Minister of Defense Bono
had no sooner ended his appearance in Congress the day before
when the Popular Party started spreading claims in the press
that some of the ships Spain would be selling Venezuela would
have offensive capabilities. "This would be difficult for
the Popular Party to know," quipped Pardo, "since the
configuration of the ships hasn't even been determined yet."
In Pardo's view this illustrated how the Popular Party was
using the Venezuela sale and Spain-U.S. relations for its own
political purposes. Pardo said he had instructed the
Navantia shipyard not do include anything in the ships'
configuration that would go against the memorandum of
agreement between Spain and Venezuela, including anything
that could constitute offensive capability.

4. (C) Pardo then showed Charge a copy of the memorandum of
agreement signed between Spain and Venezuela, pointed to the
portion describing the types of ships that would be sold, and
emphasized that nowhere did it mention "corvettes" as some in
the Popular Party and press had claimed Spain planned to sell
Venezuela. "I do not have to show you this classified
document," said Pardo, "but I want us both to be absolutely
clear on what we are and are not selling here." Pardo said
he wanted to be clear: Spain is only contemplating selling
Venezuela coastal patrol ships and oceanic patrol ships, the
latter needed to patrol Venezuela's free economic zone.
Spain will not be selling Venezuela corvettes.

5. (C) When asked what tonnage the ships would have, Pardo
said those specifications had also not yet been determined,
but the displacement would likely be between 1,200 and 1,700
tons. Defense attache noted that ships in that displacement
range could be outfitted to carry missiles, regardless of
whether they're called corvettes or patrol boats. Noticeably
bothered, Pardo replied emphatically, "The ships will not
carry missiles -- that's what I'm trying to explain. Please
trust us." Pardo insisted that the Zapatero government and
the defense ministry are "responsible" and will not permit
the ships to carry offensive weapons. "We believe we deserve
your trust," said Pardo, adding "you should listen to what we
at the ministry tell you before you believe what a Spanish
congressman says (referring to Popular Party critics)."

6. (C) Pardo then pointed out that "something the opposition
and the press are missing" is that the industrial portion of
the deal, including transport planes and ships to carry
petroleum and asphalt, is worth much more than the military
portion. When asked how much the military and industrial
portions of the sale would be worth, Pardo demurred, saying
he could not give us numbers because the have not been worked
out yet, but he assured us the non-military portion was more
significant than the military.
7. (C) Pardo restated his concern that third parties were
succeeding in making this a bigger issue than it should be,
and said he was "very frustrated" by that. Pardo claimed
that many other European countries "with good relations with
the U.S." were selling equipment with much more offensive
capability to the Chavez government than Spain. He then
said he hoped the issue would not come up in Minister Bono's
May 3 meeting with SecDef Rumsfeld because "we (Spain and the
U.S.) have already gotten beyond it."

8. (C) Charge explained to Pardo that the U.S. is concerned
about the Venezuela sale not because "third parties" such as
the Popular Party had made an issue of it, but because the
U.S. believes the sale could add to Venezuela's ability to
cause destabilization in the region. In addition, Spain's
engagement with Venezuela, including by virtue of the sale,
could also lend Chavez political visibility and legitimacy he
otherwise would not have. Charge made clear the U.S. is very
concerned about Chavez's non-democratic moves in his own
country and his destabilizing activities in other countries
of Latin America. The last thing anyone needs to do right
now, explained Charge, is do something to give Chavez more
political and military muscle, which seems to us exactly what
Spain is doing. Charge also told Pardo it was not realistic
to think the Venezuela sale would not come up in the
Bono-Rumsfeld meeting. It was bound to be raised because it
remains an important issue for the U.S.

9. (C) Pardo replied that although he understood the topic
would come up in the meeting, he hoped it would not be main
subject discussed and "the only thing the newspapers talk
about afterward." The Zapatero government, he said, has made
numerous gestures to show the U.S. Spain wants to improve
relations, and will continue to do so, and does not feel the
focus should always be on the negative aspects of the
relationship, such as the Venezuela sale. "Our decisions to
increase our troop presence in Afghanistan last fall, and to
lead a PRT this year in western Afghanistan, were taken
because we are a loyal ally of the U.S.," said Pardo. The
Spanish government believes it should get some degree of
recognition for such moves and hopes that the focus of the
Bono-Rumsfeld meeting can be areas in which Spain and the
U.S. cooperate, such as Afghanistan, and not only on problem
areas like Venezuela. Pardo then said the Ministry of
Defense is probably the most supportive ministry in the
Spanish government of positive U.S.-Spain relations.

10. (C) Comment: Pardo made every effort to show that he
was very irritated that the Venezuela sale had become such a
big issue in the Spanish press, in internal Spanish politics,
and in U.S.-Spain relations. The purpose of the meeting
appeared to be to demonstrate this irritation and to press
Charge to do what he could to exclude the Venezuela sale from
the Bono-Rumsfeld agenda. Charge made clear the U.S. was
troubled by the matter exclusive of the interests of any
third parties, the issue would very likely come up during
Bono's meeting with Rumsfeld, and the U.S. remained concerned
about the sale's ability to bolster Chavez politically and
militarily.

MANZANARES