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Our man in Washington

Mariano Rajoy’s obedient attitude has earned him no favor with the White House

If measured in terms of high-level contacts, US-Spanish relations seem to be in a slump. Our prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, elected with a clear majority in November 2011, has yet to be received in the White House. While, for example, his Italian colleague Mario Monti - installed, rather than elected, as head of a technocratic government at around the same time - visited Obama in February 2012.

Our previous prime minister, Zapatero, was persona non grata at the White House, but this was predictable enough after he, as opposition leader, had remained seated as the American flag went by at a parade in October 2003, in protest because then-PM Aznar had sent Spanish troops to assist in Bush's invasion of Iraq. None of the bootlicking he later did as prime minister could lift the doom pronounced on him by the Bush administration. But Rajoy, who has always been a nice boy to the Empire, has been just as ineffective in having front doors thrown open to him. His good behavior seems to have had rather the contrary effect. The main figures of the first Obama administration, and now the second, have given Madrid a miss on their visits to Europe, the latest being John Kerry.

It must be admitted that the ongoing absence of Washington beats all Spanish records, at least since 1989, as well as those of all other NATO countries, including those of less obvious relevance than Spain. Incredible but true: none of the members of this government, except Defense Minister Pedro Morenés, who visited his opposite number Leon Panetta in July 2012, have been to Washington. None of the holders of Cabinet portfolios — Foreign Affairs, Finance, Justice, Labor, Industry, Agriculture, Health, Education or Public Works — seem to have had any business to do there. Nor has the deputy prime minister. This is hard to fathom, when so many vital Spanish interests require negotiation with the US, and when the other day Obama presented the new US labor secretary, Thomas Pérez, of Dominican origin, who spoke to the media in English and Spanish — additional proof, if any were needed, of the strength of the Hispanic community in the United States.

To let them have the Rota base for nothing conditions our sovereignty in a way that must be debated in Congress

We know that a visit by King Juan Carlos was planned for the fifth centenary of the discovery of Florida by the Spanish, a visit that would then proceed to Washington for a meeting with Barack Obama. Mariano Rajoy was supposed to go along, but the king's recent operation precluded the journey.

Meanwhile, American gears continue to turn relentlessly at the service of their interests, and October 10 saw the signing in Brussels of the amendment protocol to the 1988 Defense Cooperation Treaty between Spain and the United States. It was signed by Morenés and Panetta without the Spanish public being previously informed of the terms contained in it. With this simple act, we were incorporated into the anti-missile shield, in which the US base at Rota in southern Spain is to play a role — a matter that seems too important to have been enacted just like that. To let them have the Rota base for nothing conditions our sovereignty in a way that ought to have been debated in Congress.

Now the anti-missile shield is to be redesigned, as we learn from the press conference held in the Pentagon by Chuck Hagel, who adduced reasons of cost and organization, arguing that the restructuring is focused on countering the nuclear threat from North Korea and Iran. But remember that, when we were being persuaded to join the anti-missile shield, they explained it was a response to those same threats, from the same sources, for which it was indispensable to deploy installations in Turkey, Poland, the Czech Republic and Rota. And now, without any modification in the objectives, the batteries have to be in the Pacific and Alaska. The Pentagon knows best, and it's rude to ask questions.

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