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US Congressmen reproach Moratinos over relations with Chávez and Castro

By Marta G. Hontoria | La Razón

Washington, 15 April 2005 | John Kerry declined to meet with the Spanish minister despite having scheduled a meeting. Cuba and Venezuela again presented themselves as the main obstacle to bilateral relations between the US and Spain. US Members of Congress asked the Foreign Affairs representative to clarify our country’s relationships with both. Meanwhile, Moratinos emphasized that there exists a "will to strengthen relations". Furthermore, Moratinos announce the creation of new Cervantes Institutes.

The foreign minister, who meets today with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, had a packed agenda spread among meetings with US senators, working breakfasts with the "Washington Post" and participations in a well known “think tank”, the Brookings Institution, or with the Hispanic Caucus of the House of Representatives. He had scheduled, among other things, a meeting with John Kerry, former presidential candidate beaten by Bush, but that was substituted by an interview with Senator Coleman and Republican Mel Martínez. And with all of them the same mission: explaining Spain’s foreign policy in the presence of distrust being generated in Washington.

Republican members of congress such as Henry Hyde, who presides over the Committee on International Relations, and Democrats such as Tom Lantos, made known, during their meetings with Moratinos, their incomprehension concerning Spain's policy toward Cuba and Venezuela. In the meeting, judged to be "fruitful", and also "at times impassioned", according to diplomatic sources, the Spanish Government tried to explain that the policy which has evolved for Latin America has not been one of improvisation, but rather one having a trajectory of many years and whose objective is to encourage democracy in the region. "Spain shares the same objectives of the US, but has different working methods," affirmed Moratinos in a brief meeting with the press. In the presence of US uneasiness, the head of Spain’s diplomacy explained that the weapons that Spain has sold to Venezuela are not of an offensive character, but are rather patrol boats without cannons, which can serve as an instrument in the fight against terrorism and narcotraffic.

From the US position also emanated a sentiment of incomprehension and isolation during difficult moments which this country has suffered with the war in Iraq, despite the generosity shown by the US toward Europe in the 20th Century. For that reason, Senator Lantos ask the minister to convey to Spain’s public opinion and to the European Union that sensitivity and perplexity resulting from the European position.

One of the priorities of the foreign policy, which the Spanish government is trying to demonstrate during this visit, is to motivate collaboration with the Hispanic community in the US. In this respect, Moratinos announced yesterday the upcoming establishment of a new Cervantes Institute and a cultural center in the US capital. The minister explained that during the next four or five years Spain will have as many as 10 Cervantes Institutes in this country, which will all be added to the current centers in New York, Chicago and Albuquerque. Moratinos emphasized the fact that there are nearly 40 million Hispanics in the US and affirmed that Madrid hopes to work with other Latin American governments such as that of Mexico so as to reinforce policies aimed at bringing Hispanic culture together.

The minister also had the opportunity to have a short interview with the managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Rodrigo Rato, to whom the Spanish minister expressed his appreciation for the contribution of that body to the Initiative against Hunger started by the UN and invited him to participate in the Ibero-American Summit in Salamanca.

Translation by W.K.

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