Monday, January 17, 2005

UNITED PRESS has an analysis today of the current status of US and Spain relationships:
Shortly after the U.S. presidential elections, George Bush Sr. was in Spain on a hunting trip with friends.

Spanish Minister of Defense Jose Bono asked to see him and, according to a well-informed Madrid source, was very persistent. When the former president agreed, Bono arrived for the meeting with a lavish gift of a pair of hand-made Spanish hunting rifles. His purpose was to ask the elder Bush to persuade newly re-elected President George W. Bush to agree to speak to Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, at least on the phone.

G.H.W. Bush telephoned his son at the White House, but the president's reaction was, "tough, rough, and loud," the source said. Sorry, Bush Sr. told Bono, the president was not interested in personal contact with Zapatero at this time.

A Washington insider believes President Bush, who attaches importance to establishing a rapport with other world leaders, had developed a personal dislike for Zapatero that will be hard to repair. First and foremost Bush regarded the Socialist prime minister's decision to withdraw his country's forces from Iraq as an act of betrayal. Zapatero had campaigned in the election on a promise to bring the boys home, and the pullout was one of his very first decisions as prime minister.

[...] Bush has so far not returned Zapatero's call to congratulate him on his re-election. A White House spokesman said that the two leaders had not connected because of problems with their respective agendas; but that was on Nov. 10, and the call remains unanswered. Eight days after his re-election, Bush met Aznar at the White House. "I went to the White House to speak to President Bush for one reason -- because he is my friend," Aznar was quoted as saying later. "I have various friends in America, and one of them is the president."

[...] A leading Spanish business executive told United Press International that U.S.-Spain tensions have not affected commercial transactions between the two countries. He noted that administration spin merchants had not pushed anti-Spain sentiment the way they had the PR offensive against France after President Jacques Chirac opposed the Iraq war. There had been no boycott of Spanish goods in the United States, and the number of U.S. tourists visiting Spain had continued to climb to record levels. While French toast had become Freedom Toast on the Air Force One breakfast menu, a Spanish omelette had not been re-named a Regime Change Omelette.