US hails Spanish PM in diplomatic cables
The United States views Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero as a "wily politician" who should not be underestimated, according to diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks.
Spanish King Juan Carlos also "has influence with Zapatero when he wants to use it," including in the appointment of the Spanish ambassador to Washington, according to the cables published in the Spanish newspaper El Pais on Monday.
"Zapatero is a wily politician with an uncanny ability -- like a cat in a jungle -- to sense opportunity or danger," said one cable dated from the US embassy in Madrid January 21, 2009.
"It is dangerous to underestimate him, as many former rivals have found out too late.
"In making decisions and formulating policy, he plays to his domestic audience, especially voters outside the Madrid region... ," it said.
But it said the Socialist leader, who won a second four-year term in office in 2008, has a "steep learning curve on foreign policy issues."
Another cable, dated six months later, hails Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, who is now also deputy prime minister, as "very capable and serious but also charming" and "arguably the most impressive member" of Zapatero's cabinet.
"He is one of two or three individuals whom Zapatero often consults before making big decisions," it said.
The prime minister also "consults and informs the King on issues from time to time and the King has no reluctance to offer his thoughts -- but not his advice -- on issues," said the January 2009 cable.
"The King is selective when he wants the (government) to do something, discreetly passing the word through Zapatero or his Cabinet. The King does have influence with Zapatero when he wants to use it."
It said: "Juan Carlos is well-disposed to the U.S. but he will always act in what he perceives to be the best interests of Spain. Where U.S. and Spanish interests coincide, he can be a formidable ally."
© 2010 AFP