Wikileaks: Trinidad Jimenez’s (Spanish Foreign Minister) comments on Latin America

ID:     187673
Date:     2009-01-16 16:59:00
Origin:     09MADRID59
Source:     Embassy Madrid
Classification:     CONFIDENTIAL
Dunno:     08MADRID518 09MADRID1366 09MOSCOW20
Destination:     VZCZCXYZ0000

DE RUEHMD #0059/01 0161659
R 161659Z JAN 09

C O N F I D E N T I A L MADRID 000059



E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/14/2019

B. MADRID 1366
C. 08 MADRID 518

Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission Arnold A. Chacon, for reasons 1.
4(b) and (d).

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: A/S Shannon’s January 8-9 Madrid program
and subsequent media play were characterized by bilateral
goodwill and Spanish optimism for a new phase in U.S.-Spanish
cooperation in Latin America despite significant challenges
in the region. He highlighted U.S. engagement in the
Americas, shared interests with Spain, and our outreach in
Europe and Asia to countries with strategic interests in
Latin America and the Caribbean. The Spanish also raised
Gaza and the High-Level Meeting on Food Security taking place
in Madrid later this month. END SUMMARY.

U.S., Spain, and Europe in Latin America

2. (C) Spanish Secretary of State for Iberoamerica Trinidad
Jimenez hosted a lunch for A/S Shannon January 8. The
conversational tour of the region set the stage for the
remainder of A/S Shannon’s interactions, notably the
breakfast colloquium January 9 at Casa de America and a
90-minute meeting with Secretary General of the Presidency
Bernardino Leon, also January 9. At lunch and again before a
public audience, Jimenez asserted that no two countries were
more important to the future success of Latin America than
the U.S. and Spain. She reviewed recent Spanish involvement
in the region (Note: In what the press has called an effort
to promote a closer relationship between Europe and Latin
America, Jimenez traveled to Lisbon on January 13 and met
with Portuguese FM Amado and the Secretary of State for
Foreign Affairs and Cooperation. She also received her
Italian counterpart in Madrid on January 14. End note.)

3. (C) During his meeting with A/S Shannon, Leon suggested
the Western Hemisphere was becoming more “global.” Leon
cited the expulsion of Israel’s ambassador by Venezuelan
President Chavez and Nicaragua’s September 2008 recognition
of the breakaway Georgian republics of South Ossetia and
Abkhazia. Leon also expressed interest in the approach the
new U.S. Administration would take to the region and offered
GOS assistance during the transition. Leon said
President-elect Obama had expressed his desire to consult
with Spanish President Zapatero before making any big
decisions on Latin America policy. (Note: In a January 13
radio interview Zapatero said he “hoped to have a deep
conversation (with Obama) as soon as possible about conflict
areas, as well as about Latin America, including Cuba,” but
that the contacts would start after January 20. End note.)

4. (C) A/S Shannon told Leon that during the Secretary’s
December 2008 trip to Panama for the first Pathways to
Prosperity plenary, the U.S. had made efforts to engage with
all countries in the region that had expressed interest in
free trade. Leon raised the EU accords with Central America
and Colombia. He lamented that Bolivia would likely be
excluded due to the negative influence of Venezuela.
Ecuador, he surmised, would want in on any trade agreement in
order to protect banana exports.


5. (C) Jimenez praised the U.S. for focusing attention on
Mexico’s border with Guatemala. Hearing that President-elect
Obama would meet with Mexican President Calderon January 12,
she called it a good initiative to form new institutional
relationships. She expressed concern about Calderon’s
capacity to fight corruption within his government but noted

the widespread respect he commanded in the region.

6. (C) Leon and Jimenez were very upbeat about Brazil.
Regarding Lula’s efforts on behalf of regional integration,

Jimenez assured Shannon, “if it is good for Latin America, it
is good for Spain.” She suggested Spain and the U.S. should
see each other and also Brazil and Mexico as partners rather
than rivals. Discarding the idea that the U.S. had been
excluded from December meetings in Sauipe, Shannon praised
Lula’s leadership and quoted the Secretary as calling Brazil
“a regional power and a global partner.” Jimenez was also
supportive of “a strong Brazil and an involved Mexico.”


7. (C) On Guatemala, both Jimenez and Leon expressed
disappointment with Colom’s slowness in recognizing and
confronting the problems of corruption and organized crime.
Jimenez told A/S Shannon she would travel to Guatemala soon
to address concerns over insecurity and drug violence. She
said Spain would also add an Interior Ministry representative
to its embassy in Guatemala to support the Spanish Civil
Guard’s work in training Guatemalan national police. Leon
noted the Guatemalan President had invited two Spanish
advisors from the Office of the Presidency and suggested they
should make contact with the U.S. Embassy there to exchange
views. Leon was generally optimistic about Costa Rica, and
opined that El Salvador would be okay following March 15
presidential elections, but noted it would be better if ARENA
won. Leon described Nicaraguan President Ortega as a “lost
cause.” He said Zapatero had refused to meet with Ortega
during the October 2008 Latin American Summit in El Salvador.
Jimenez called Ortega the worst of all the leaders with whom
she works.


8. (C) Leon told Shannon the GOS supports the Marsans Group
in its dispute with Aerolineas Argentinas but said Spain
would take measures to improve the climate before the
February 8 visit to Madrid of Argentine President Fernandez
de Kirchner. Shannon said the U.S. had made enormous efforts
to maintain a good relationship with Argentina, with mixed
results. Leon agreed the Kirchner team was “lamentable,” and
doubted Argentina’s “perverse system” could be fixed, yet he
expressed hope that Argentines would one day reclaim their
political space. He offered to deliver any messages the U.S.
might wish during Fernandez Kirchner’s February visit. Leon
said Spain was not worried about the outcome of Chilean
elections, but expressed disappointment in Paraguayan
President Lugo.


9. (C) Leon noted Ecuador’s need to be more competitive to
make up for the loss of its oil income. Saying he was
hopeful about Ecuadorian President Correa, he conceded his
first impression, at the time of Ecuador’s expropriation of
foreign oil companies, had been decidedly negative. He
observed Correa continued to manipulate debt and market
access issues for his own political gain, and he opined the
Ecuadorian President needed a positive “mentor” in the

10. (C) Referring to Ecuador’s March 2008 border conflict
with Colombia and Correa’s subsequent European tour, Leon
expressed lingering frustration with Correa’s propensity to
express “barbarities” after a carefully managed and very
moderate joint statement with President Zapatero. In the
context of balancing Colombian concerns, Leon mentioned
Ecuador’s request for assistance with air traffic control
radar. Leon and A/S Shannon agreed that improved civil
aviation control was essential to ensure regional stability
in the Andean corridor. Jimenez deemed Venezuelan President
Chavez to be weakened, as evidenced by moving up the
Venezuelan referendum.



11. (C) In his conversations with both Jimenez and Leon, A/S
Shannon noted Cuba’s long resistance to democratic change,
and said the U.S., Spain, and other countries must continue
to promote such change, pressing consistently for freedom for
political prisoners and political space for a democratic
opposition. Jimenez mentioned the difficulties of
negotiating with the GOC, as in the case of humanitarian aid
offers in the wake of hurricanes Ike and Gustav, but insisted
it was important to make such gestures even if Cuba
ultimately refused them. Anticipating the third round of
EU-Cuba human rights talks January 15-16, Jimenez said the
Czechs (holding the EU Presidency) did not appear interested
in sending messages. Spain, on the other hand, wanted to
find the “right formula,” presumably not a public one, to
speak of pluralism and to visit dissidents. Jimenez said she
might travel to Cuba in May 2009 and joked that, looking to
the June review of the EU’s common position on Cuba, the U.S.
ought to give the Czechs instructions that would be helpful
to Spain’s efforts. Jimenez expounded on what she called the
discrepancies between Miami and Washington approaches to Cuba
and argued that the U.S. transition was “the best excuse” for
a change in U.S. policy.

12. (C) Leon asked A/S Shannon to convey Spain’s intention to
work closely with the U.S. on any possible Spanish
presidential visit to Cuba. He did not discard the
possibility Zapatero could travel to Cuba in 2009, but he
noted Zapatero had backtracked following conflicting public
statements by GOS officials. Jimenez retreated further,
saying perhaps Zapatero would not visit in 2009 but that a
visit would be reasonable during this legislature (which ends
in 2012) if it could help promote change in Cuba.


13. (SBU) Leon asked about the prospects for extending the
Merida Initiative to Central America. A/S Shannon said that
$60 million in funding from the first tranche of $465 million
was slated for Central America. An additional $150 million
was requested for Central America in the FY-2009 budget
request. Director General of Cooperation with Iberoamerica
Consuelo Femenia joined Jimenez’ lunch for A/S Shannon and
briefed on Spain’s assistance programs in the hemisphere.
Femenia spoke of Spanish emphasis on governability, gender
issues, and the health sector and noted the importance of
continuity of development aid in countries like Bolivia,
where Spain’s bilateral plans are in limbo. While Jimenez
said Spain had not restricted cooperation to Bolivia, the GOS
was conscious of the need to make assistance more
“efficient.” To that end, lunch attendees espoused the
benefits of triangular cooperation. A/S Shannon called for
increased coherence among assistance programs. He suggested
the U.S. and Spain review opportunities for triangular


14. (C) Gaza crept into discussions of Latin America. Leon
described FM Moratinos’s planned trip the week of January 12
to Egypt, Israel, Syria, and the West Bank. A/S Shannon
encouraged Leon to stay in touch with U.S. officials on the
Middle East to maintain an exchange of views (Note:
Moratinos reached out the Secretary by telephone January 15
to describe his trip. End note). Leon also pulled A/S
Shannon aside to stress the importance to the GOS attaches to
the UN High-Level Meeting on Food Security in Madrid January


15. (U) A/S Shannon and Jimenez drew a standing-room only
crowd for an on the record breakfast colloquium January 9 at

Casa de America (the Spanish Government’s influential
cultural institute for Latin America). A/S Shannon spoke of
seeking new partners and opening new space for democracy and
economic opportunity in Latin America. He noted the U.S. and
Spain shared a strategic vision in the region. He
acknowledged that Spain and the U.S. might differ on tactics
in some cases but emphasized shared goals. He stressed the
need to work not just with Latin American countries but with
all countries who have strategic interests in the region.
Asked whether 2009 would be the year of Cuba, Jimenez
expressed hope for a change of U.S. attitude but commented
the future of the embargo depended on gestures from both
sides. A/S Shannon in turn insisted on the importance of the
international community actively promoting democratic change.
He emphasized it was more than just meeting dissidents
during visits to the island, important though that was.
Countries needed to work collaboratively and consistently
with the dissidents to help them create space for a
democratic opposition.


16. (U) A/S Shannon granted interviews to the three leading
media outlets. Left-of-center daily El Pais (circulation 2.2
million), published a full page interview January 11. A/S
Shannon participated in the live broadcast Cadena Ser Radio
program “La Ventana” (average listenership 750,000).
Number-one ranked Television Espanola (TVE) recorded an
interview with A/S Shannon for its regular program “Barrio
Latino.” The show will air January 20 and will reach
audiences throughout Spain and Latin America on January 20.
In each interview, A/S Shannon laid out U.S. policy in Latin
America and strongly defended the USG’s engagement with the
region in recent years. Topics of particular interest to the
media included U.S. policy towards Cuba and Venezuela,
prospects for trade and investment in the region given the
economic crisis, drug trafficking and the Merida Initiative,
and the perceived rise of leftist/populist leaders in several
Latin American countries. Leading journalists and directors
of Spanish news wire service EFE also participated in the
colloquium January 9.


17. (C) Spanish views continue to resonate with our own on
most things Latin American. The GOS expresses frustration
with the same leaders and situations that are of greatest
concern to us. On Cuba, where we have our greatest tactical
differences, Spain is watching closely for signals from the
new U.S. Administration and hopes to consult closely on the
issue. Throughout the Western Hemisphere, Spain seems
genuinely interested in working with the U.S., and the Merida
Initiative may present a unique opportunity to do so if we
can move beyond Spanish good intentions to concrete actions.
The Spanish are increasingly aware that many of Latin
America’s ills, such as narcotics trafficking, impact them as
much or more than the U.S. A/S Shannon’s visit was an
extremely well-timed and typically effective push in the
right direction. For historical and cultural reasons, Spain
likes to regard Latin America as something of a special
preserve and itself as the opinion leader within Europe.
Nevertheless, Spanish officials such as Leon and Jimenez are
keenly aware of the preponderant U.S. influence in the region
and are anxious to maintain the fluid dialogue that has been
established in recent years. The Zapatero Administration is
likely to maintain its preference for low key diplomacy in
dealing with problem countries in Latin America, but that is
not say we cannot have a mutually-beneficial partnership in
the region.

18. (U) A/S Shannon cleared this cable.

    * El Gobierno descalificó a líderes latinoamericanos