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Viewing cable 09BARCELONA12, USS MT. WHITNEY: CITY AUTHORITIES, POLICE RUN FOR COVER

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09BARCELONA12 2009-02-05 15:03 2010-12-27 12:12 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Consulate Barcelona
VZCZCXRO3898
PP RUEHLA
DE RUEHLA #0012/01 0361535
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 051535Z FEB 09
FM AMCONSUL BARCELONA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1086
INFO RUEHMD/AMEMBASSY MADRID PRIORITY 1047
RUEHLA/AMCONSUL BARCELONA 1258
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BARCELONA 000012

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EUR/WE (PSPRATLEN/ESAMSON) AND CA/OCS/EUR FOR PBPLATUKIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ASEC CASC PGOV SP
SUBJECT: USS MT. WHITNEY: CITY AUTHORITIES, POLICE RUN FOR COVER
FOLLOWING INCIDENT WITH CREWMEN

REF: BARCELONA 0009, MADRID 0113

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: CG met with a city council member and
Director of the Guardia Urbana to express USG disappointment
with police actions January 22 towards crewmen aboard the USS
Mt. Whitney. CG told Barcelona authorities that quick
communication either directly with the Commanding Officer of the
ship or the Consul General might have kept the situation from
spiraling out of control and causing subsequent reactions in
Barcelona, Madrid, Naples, and Washington, DC. City officials
acknowledged that miscommunication during the police action, as
well as, lack of communication afterwards, was likely the root
of the problem. They insisted that U.S. military vessels are
welcome in Barcelona, and undertook to contact Sixth Fleet
officials in Naples as well as liaison officers at the base in
Rota to clarify the situation. End Summary.

LACK OF COMMUNICATION

2. (SBU) Following the January 22 incident between undercover
Guardia Urbana agents and crewmen from the visiting USS Mt.
Whitney (ref a), and in the face of an almost complete lack of
communication from city authorities, CG sent a letter to Guardia
Urbana director F. Xavier Vilaro i Camps, and copies to the
Mayor's office and the office of the regional President Jose
Montilla denouncing the incident. CG later spoke directly with
an aide to the Mayor and the Diplomatic Advisor to President
Montilla. In addition, we have been in contact with the Court
and a representative of the office of Civil and Human Rights.
Embassy Madrid ODC Chief, the President of the U.S. Section of
the Joint Permanent Committee that manages our bilateral
Agreement on Defense Cooperation, raised the incident with his
Spanish flag-officer counterpart January 23. Embassy Madrid
sent a note verbal January 28 to the MFA denouncing the incident
and seeking an explanation. The Charge d'Affaires raised the
incident January 29 in a meeting with the MOD Secretary General
for Policy (ref b).

3. (SBU) After all of this, the only response we received from
city authorities was a note from Vilaro, which stated that the
matter was under internal investigation and that he was sorry
for any "inconvenience" the incident may have caused. The CG
requested and received a meeting with the appropriate
authorities.

RUNNING FOR COVER

4. (SBU) CG met with city council woman Assumpta Escarp i Gibert
February 4 to follow up our previous communications. Guardia
Urbana director Vilaro and his deputy also attended. CG told
city officials that he appreciated the generally excellent
relationship and cooperation with the police in Barcelona, and
that this was particularly important as the protection of
American citizens is our highest priority. He noted that to
date we had not had a problem like this, and further reminded
the officials that in his almost three years here he had
received numerous appeals for more ship visits. CG expressed
USG disappointment regarding this incident. As a result: A)
The Sixth Fleet was now reluctant to return to Barcelona; B) the
incident had received attention at the highest levels in the
Department; C) the USG sent a diplomatic note to the GOS; and D)
witness testimony that only African-American males were targeted
left a clear impression that race played a part in the event.
CG told the officials that the situation required an explanation
and clarification. The USG also wanted assurances that U.S.
military vessels would continue to be welcome to the city.

5. (SBU) Escarp assured CG that U.S. military vessels were,
indeed, welcome in Barcelona. She insisted that this was an
isolated matter and noted that this is the first time in years
that she has heard of something like this happening. She
acknowledged CG's letter and made it clear her office had been
contacted by other Spanish authorities. Escarp and Vilaro
agreed that miscommunication, both during the operation and
after, was the likely cause of the problem. CG noted that the
plainclothes agents failed to identify themselves as police.

NEXT STEPS

6. (SBU) CG suggested a number of steps city officials might
take to move past and learn from this incident. First, city
officials need to offer an explanation to the USG and make clear
what they are investigating. Second, police officials should be
directly in contact with NCIS liaison officers at Rota. Third,
that Guardia Urbana have a direct line of communication with CG
Barcelona consular personnel. Escarp and Vilaro agreed, and
also offered to give both Rota and Sixth Fleet officials
information on the different types of police identification to
enhance our security briefings.


BARCELONA 00000012 002 OF 002


7. (SBU) Comment: Police and city officials were clearly shaken
upon hearing both how far accounts of this incident had spread
and a full outline of the consequences. We believe they are
sincere in wanting to work out better lines of communication
internally and with the USG, and we plan to hold them to that.
The next steps we suggested should go a long way towards
strengthening a frayed relationship. We are going to insist on
a copy of the investigation report and continue following
on-going judicial procedures stemming from the formal complaints
lodged by the crewmen. End Comment.
ROBINSON