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Rodriguez Zapatero, el tonto útil (the useful fool)

By Daniel Duquenal | Venezuela News and Views

29.03.05 | The prime minister of Spain is arriving today for a State visit. In part to nail down some defense contracts. Chavez check book is backed up enough to help him buy a few goodies and "make friends". Zapatero is one of those "friends" only too willing to be bought.

Now, before people think that I am too mean, I must start by stating that Zapatero has good reasons to let himself be bought by Chavez. He has labor problems with some of his shipyards so any naval construction order put down by Chavez can earn Zapatero some social respite while he retrains shipyard workers. Also Spain has very, very large interests in Venezuela and surely he must avoid jeopardizing them. After all, 2 of the 4 top banks in Venezuela are owned by Spanish banks, and thus the reader can imagine what else comes behind as a banking support is a good way to spearhead other Spanish ventures such as the SEAT car maker or civil engineering contracts. Let's not forget that nations move by interest before they are moved by ideas.

However there is a certain indignity in the way Zapatero runs to embrace Chavez.

I will start by gossip. It was rumored that after Zapatero reached office, helped by the March 11 Madrid bombings, the new ambassador to Venezuela gave instructions to his employees not to meet with opposition members. Though apparently there was no restriction on meeting with officials. Was that gossip? Some events seem to point out that it was not.

Spain's foreign minister Moratinos has pushed very hard to make Spain the Trojan horse of Cuba in the European Union. With some success it seems though I am not sure if it is really due to Spain or rather a certain lassitude of Europe which seems unable to stand firm of principles (the characteristics of loosely held confederations). One of the reasons why the new socialist administration of Spain might have done that was to distance itself as much as possible from Aznar wanna-be a big guy. In the Iraq war, Aznar looked a little bit like the useful fool of Bush and Blair, and Zapatero did campaign on that sensing that the Spanish people did not want the involvement in Iraq. It is not the objective of this blogger to discuss whether Spain was right or not in sending soldiers to Iraq. However this blogger can state with all confidence that after one year in office Zapatero is as guilty as Aznar in cheap grandstanding, and he makes it even worse by his rather poor results so far.

Moratinos and Zapatero got burned twice already. One, all their entreaties in favor of Cuba have met some echo in Europe but still Castro as to yield any significant measure to justify Spain semi humiliation in the process. European capitals are aware of that and are probably only too willing to use Spain as a scape goat if Castro tightens further his repressive regime, and it is a safe bet to do so.

But what is even more astounding is that Zapatero got already burned once by Chavez and he is coming for more! The only explanation is that Zapatero feverish desire to outdo Aznar (who by the way retired and is not even a political rival anymore) is bringing him to these shores where a summit will be held. And what a summit!

A "Latin American Alliance" is proposed. The summit will take place between Chavez, the host, and Colombia's Uribe, Brazil's Lula and Zapatero. If I understand well that initiative originated a couple of months ago when it was proposed that Zapatero mediates between Colombia and Venezuela during the Granda affair.

Now, I am no foreign secretary of Spain but I can predict that this Alliance will come to naught, except perhaps for a few contracts. Brazil has as many people as the three other guys put together. It has an imperialist vocation and it certainly will not take its cue from Spain. Colombia is there because Uribe gains more out of it than Chavez or Spain. Uribe, seemingly winning his war on the narco guerilla is losing the battle with the European intelligentsia who still think that the FARC are still a real popular movement and not a drug cartel. Thus Uribe does not miss a chance to look good in the international stage, already thinking about l'aprčs guerre when Colombia will become, suddenly, a big player. So we will see the incredible spectacle of Zapatero giving stature to an ideological opponent, Colombia, and future political pariah, Venezuela, while the real big guy, Brazil will harvest any benefit in the affair.

Really, Zapatero is about to look once again as el tonto útil, and for more than one guy.

The Venezuelan opposition is not mistaken as already AD has refused to meet with Zapatero. A perfunctory meeting was called by the Spanish embassy. Normally in a state visit in serious country there is a substantial meeting with the opposition leadership (though we noticed that when Iran visits the opposition is not invited to meet, but Spain is a serious country, still). But the embassy called for a very brief encounter, enough for a photo op to make Zapatero look good, short enough that Chavez will know that the opposition leadership will have no time to make its case. AD, who knows in addition that Zapatero would love to include Chavez (and Castro?) in the Internationale Socialiste, will have none of it and prefers that Zapatero takes his circus or promoting undemocratic governments elsewhere. Inasmuch as I dislike AD, for once they are right and the rest of the opposition might be well advised to follow suit: as we say en Venezuela, Zapatero esta meando fuera del perol (Zapatero is not peeing on target).

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PS: Zapatero and Moratinos would be well advised in reading the rather perceptive assay by Miguel comparing the fate of Venezuela and Spain over the last three decades. One wonders what happened to the PSOE of Spain who under Felipe Gonzalez took Spain out of third world status with the today's PSOE who seems headlessly running into walls and possibly compromising the well being of Spain. Good thing that Aznar tightly linked Spain to Europe.

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