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Viewing cable 06MADRID857, SPAIN: ZAPATERO ANNOUNCES SURPRISE CHANGES TO

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MADRID857 2006-04-07 15:03 2010-12-06 12:12 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Madrid
VZCZCXRO6319
PP RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHMRE RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHMD #0857/01 0971548
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 071548Z APR 06
FM AMEMBASSY MADRID
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9363
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 4933
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 0921
RUEHLA/AMCONSUL BARCELONA 1843
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHDC
RUCNFB/FBI WASHDC
RUEAHLC/HOMELAND SECURITY CENTER WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUCNOSC/ORGANIZATION FOR SECURITY COOPERATION IN EUROPE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MADRID 000857

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/22/2015
TAGS: PGOV PREL SP
SUBJECT: SPAIN: ZAPATERO ANNOUNCES SURPRISE CHANGES TO
CABINET


MADRID 00000857 001.2 OF 002


Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission J. Robert Manzanares; Reasons 1.
4 (B) and (D).

1. (SBU) Summary. In a surprise announcement April 7,
President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero named new Defense,
Interior and Education Ministers. Jose Bono is out as
Defense Minister, to be replaced by Jose Antonio Alonso who
moves over from his post as Interior Minister. Current
Socialist spokesman in Parliament and member of Zapatero's
inner circle, Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, will take over the
Interior Ministry and Mercedes Cabrera Calvo-Sotelo will
replace Maria Jesus San Segundo as Minster of Education. The
cabinet changes are the first since Zapatero and the
Socialist Party (PSOE) took office following the March 2004
elections. The Ambassador called Bono and Alonso to thank
them for their work with the U.S. Bono expressed his
admiration for the U.S. and said he was uncertain what he
would be doing next. Alonso said that had a good
relationship with U.S. officials as Minister of Interior and
was used to cooperating with the USG. Alonso also said the
U.S. should expect "no negative surprises" from him as
Minister of Defense and suggested that he and the Ambassador
meet immediately after the Easter holidays for a
comprehensive review of U.S.-Spain defense issues. The
Ambassador was unable to reach Rubalcaba, but will speak with
him as soon as possible to offer continued close
counterterrorism communication. End Summary.

//THE ETA FACTOR//

2. (C) Embassy's initial analysis on the Interior and Defense
Ministry changes is that Zapatero's ETA policy is the driving
force, although there is some speculation that Bono himself
asked to leave and this is a shuffle forced on Zapatero.
Whatever the cause, Zapatero has put into place key allies as
he pursues his strategy with ETA following the March 26
announcement of a ceasefire. Rubalcaba has been the brain
trust on the ETA policy and putting him in place as Interior
Minister solidifies his role and gives him the authority to
devise and implement Zapatero's policies on ETA, while
ensuring political control over police actions against ETA.

3. (C) Moving Alonso to Defense removes Bono -- a longtime
rival of Zapatero. Bono has not been seen as favorable
towards Zapatero's policies favoring increased powers for
Spain's regions. This puts Alonso -- a close personal friend
of Zapatero -- into a key position as Zapatero consolidates
his political support and moves his ETA strategy forward.
Zapatero's popularity has increased considerably and he
likely feels he no longer needs to keep Bono close to him.
However, free from the restraint that comes in being in
government, Bono may be a wildcard for Zapatero on the
political scene.

//CHANGES AT MOD//

4. (C) The change at the MOD is important for the US, given
the extent of our Defense relationship with the GOS. While
not necessarily in any "pro-US" camp, Alonso has been
favorable to cooperation with the US on counter-terrorism.
He has visited the US in his role as Interior Minister and
has met with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and FBI
Director Robert Mueller -- both in Spain and in the US. The
Ambassador has a cordial relationship with Alonso and the
Embassy works well with his staff. These relationships could
be helpful as Alonso assumes his new role at Defense.

5. (C) Moving Alonso to Defense will likely mean there will
be other changes in the ministry as well, although it may
take until June to see all the changes that could take place.
A PSOE official in the Ministry told the Embassy that the
military leadership is unlikely to be affected by the change.
However, Alonso has been interested for quite some time in
removing Civil Guard Director General Gomez Arruche, so
Arruche's days may be numbered. Other sources tell us that
Alberto Saiz, the head of the Spanish Intelligence Service
(the CNI, which falls under the MOD) might be replaced, as he
was directly appointed by Bono and was considered a strong
Bono ally.


MADRID 00000857 002.2 OF 002


6. (C) Sources also said Bono has been "feeling
uncomfortable" in the Defense Ministry for "a long time."
Spanish media is reporting that Bono might be done with
politics for good, but post thinks that unlikely. With Bono
out of the picture, a PSOE advisor told the Embassy that the
"Moratinos line on foreign policy has obtained a victory."
Though Bono has portrayed himself and is widely seen as a
"friend" of the US, his actions on Venezuela defense sales,
the Spanish troop withdrawal from Iraq and other issues
sometimes belie this image.

//CHANGES AT MOI//

7. (C) A Partido Popular (PP) advisor told the Embassy that
Rubalcaba is unlikely to make many changes at Interior
because many of "his people" are already in place. MFA
Director General for North America and Europe, Jose Pons,
told the DCM that one or two key Interior officials (such as
Antonio Camacho, currently serving as Alonso's deptuty) may
be headed to Defense with Alonso. Rubalcaba is not known as
a friend of the US; however, he may well see it in his
interest to continue the CT cooperation with the US that was
put in place by his predecessor. Rubalcaba is seen as smart
and experienced and has the skills necessary to influence
people. Tapping him for Minster of Interior is proof
positive that Zapatero is serious about succeeding with ETA.

//PP REACTION//

8. (C) Popular Party leader Mariano Rajoy wasted little time
in criticizing the selection of Rubalcaba as Interior
Minister (stating bluntly that the PP "does not trust
Rubalcaba") and lamenting Bono's departure. Rajoy's comments
on Rubalcaba reflect Rubalcaba's reputation as a skilled, and
highly partisan, political actor who has worked hard to
outmaneuver and isolate the PP. Bono, on the other hand, is
among the most conservative PSOE leaders so it is
understandable that the PP would be sad to see him go. He
agreed with the PP in opposing greater autonomy to the
Catalan or Basque regions and was seen by the PP as a brake
on Zapatero's readiness to deal with the regional
governments. Interestingly, a PP think tank speculated that
Alonso was moved to the MOD in part because Alonso had
developed good relations with U.S. counterparts during his
stint as Interior Minister. The think tank contrasted Bono's
"strident positions within Spain and abroad" with Alonso's
ability to inspire confidence both within Spain and with the
USG.

//COMMENT//

9. (C) Comment: Zapatero has installed two of his closest
allies into key positions in his cabinet. Neither one runs
the risk of being seen as a political competitor of Zapatero
-- one of the problems that contributed to Bono's departure.
Both Alonso and Rubalcaba will carry out Zapatero's strategy
with ETA to the letter -- a strategy that is no doubt
directed at winning the next national elections with an
absolute majority. Political observers were impressed that
Zapatero organized the cabinet reshuffle in complete secrecy.
Clearly, Zapatero is using this cabinet shuffle, whatever
the cause, to move swiftly to take advantage of recent
victories and has consolidated his control over his
government and the Socialist Party.
AGUIRRE