Viewing cable 05MADRID1604, SPANISH DEFENSE MINISTER: VENEZUELA DEAL DESIGNED
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|05MADRID1604||2005-04-26 06:06||2010-12-07 12:12||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Madrid|
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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