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Viewing cable 05MADRID1604, SPANISH DEFENSE MINISTER: VENEZUELA DEAL DESIGNED

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05MADRID1604 2005-04-26 06:06 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 001604

SIPDIS

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

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/26/2015
TAGS: PREL PGOV PTER MOPS SP
SUBJECT: SPANISH DEFENSE MINISTER: VENEZUELA DEAL DESIGNED
TO SAVE SHIPYARD

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


1. (C) Summary: In a meeting with Charge April 22,
Minister of Defense Jose Bono said the only reason Spain was
selling military ships to Venezuela was to help troubled Izar
shipyard. Protesting Izar workers had put a lot of pressure
on the Zapatero government, said Bono. He assured Charge
that none of the ships would have offensive capabilities. He
said Spain "is with the U.S." on international security
issues, such as Afghanistan, but it seems the U.S. only
focuses on the problems in the Spain-U.S. relationship. Bono
hopes his May 3 meeting with SecDef Rumsfeld is very positive
and shows Spanish voters the countries' defense relations are
excellent. End summary.

2. (C) On the sale to Venezuela, Bono asked Charge not to
pay attention to press accounts of the sale because "every
time the press talks about it we're selling something
different." The opposition Popular Party is interested in
ruining relations between the Zapatero and Bush
administrations and so fuels inaccurate media accounts of the
sale. Spain, said Bono, is selling a total of eight patrol
ships to the Chavez government and 12 transport planes. The
planes will have no armaments and the patrol ships will have
only machine guns. Neither the planes nor the ships will be
used offensively. Charge countered the notion that the USG's
concern about the sale was related to U.S. commercial
interests. The U.S. believed the sale would contribute to
Chavez' military might and political credibility and would
make him more able to destabilize the region and continue his
anti-democratic maneuvers in his own country.

3. (C) Bono said that if he spoke English he would have
called Rumsfeld himself to explain why Spain was making this
sale. He said it boiled down to saving the ailing
state-owned shipyard Izar. Izar's workers have been
protesting against Zapatero government, clamoring for a fix
for the company's financial woes. Bono said the Venezuela
sale was one way the Zapatero government could significantly
help Izar. The sale would be Izar's biggest in the last 10
years. Bono added that he had informed Colombian president
Uribe of the sale, and he raised no objections.

4. (C) In addition, said Bono, other European countries with
good relations with the U.S. sell military equipment to
Venezuela, such as Sweden. Also, the U.S. does not limit
military sales only to democratic countries -- the U.S. sells
military equipment to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Morocco and
Pakistan.

5. (C) Bono said Spain is "with the United States," and has
demonstrated this by deciding to lead a provincial
reconstruction team and forward support base in western
Afghanistan. He noted that even though the Aznar government
wanted to take Spanish troops out of Kosovo, the Zapatero
government has decided to leave them there. He also cited
Spain's troop presence in Haiti as another example of Spain's
willingness to cooperate with the U.S. on international
security matters. When considering how loyal Spain has been
as an ally, the U.S. should also look at the access Spain has
continued to give U.S. troops at Rota and Moron military
bases. "It seems," Bono said, "that we are doing everything
the U.S. wants, but the U.S. still doesn't like what we're
doing."

6. (C) Bono said he hopes his visit to Washington will show
the Spanish public that relations with the U.S. are
excellent. "I have to show my clients the trip was worth it,
was very productive" commented Bono. Bono reminded Charge
that he was the only minister to attend the Embassy's
election night party in November. "We would like to be
rewarded for our cooperation with the U.S., not required to
pay a toll," said the minister.

7. (C) Turning to the S-80 submarine weapons system
contract, Bono said the Spanish government is nearing a
decision on the deal. He said the two American companies
vying for the deal are well positioned, but French president
Chirac has asked Zapatero to give the contract to a French
company. Bono intimated that the S-80 contract had the
potential to improve U.S.-Spain relations and is "not just a
project to build four submarines," said Bono, "but will
involve future contracts for 35-40 years." If awarded to an
American company, the contract would also increase
interoperability between the Spanish and U.S. navies.

8. (C) Bono also said he hoped he could get closure from
Secretary Rumsfeld on the releasability to Spain of the

SIPDIS
Tomahawk missile. Charge mentioned that Embassy had the
impression based on meetings with high-ranking members of the
Spanish military that Spain was undecided about purchasing
the missile if it were made available. "We want the
Tomahawk," said Bono, "I want to be clear on that."

9. (C) Comment: Bono is a Socialist Party "baron" whom
Zapatero narrowly beat out in 2000 to lead the party. He is
one of the Socialists' main Catholic conservatives and
remains one of the most popular political figures in Spain.
He thus has considerable influence and popularity if not
lengthy experience with substantive defense issues. And
while the chief of defense is well respected, he defers to
Bono, as do the services.

10. (C) Comment continued: Bono took pains to convince us
the only reason Spain was selling military equipment to the
Chavez government was to help ailing Izar. Although saving
Izar is likely the principal reason for the sale, Zapatero's
interest in engaging Chavez is no doubt another goal.
Zapatero believes that by engaging Chavez, he can gain some
influence over him. Bono's remarks also show he believes
Spain has not gotten enough credit from the U.S. for its
cooperation in Afghanistan and other areas, and that the U.S.
government is focusing only on the problem areas in our
relations with Spain, not on the positives.

MANZANARES