Text in which the author defends ideas and reaches conclusions based on his / her interpretation of facts and data

A costly mistake

Spain has a special relationship with Latin America and the obligation to defend its interests in matters involving the European Union

The infamous treatment of Evo Morales' plane on its return from Moscow to Bolivia reveals the shameful submission to Washington on the part of countries such as France, Italy and Portugal - and of Spain too. Its consequences deserve a look now, as our foreign minister, José Manuel García-Margallo, offers his explanation to the standing congressional committee, as has been demanded by various political parties.

Nobody should need to remind us that Spain is a member state of the European Union, and of the Atlantic Alliance, and has a defense agreement with the United States that has recently been modified to permit an additional use of the Spanish-American air and sea base at Rota. It falls to us to behave as loyal partners and allies, along lines determined by the principles and interests we share. But at the same time the legacy of shared history and of our renewed presence, in demographic, cultural and linguistic terms, means that Spain has a special sort of relationship with the Latin American nations, written into Article 57 of our Constitution. The reality of these countries greatly enhances our role in global politics.

Just as Britain and France derive added relevance and weight from their relations with countries that once formed part of their empires, Spain, on joining the EU, brought international input of the first order and a commitment to be the spokesman for the Latin American community of nations. There is no greater weakness than ignorance of your own strength, and no sign of slavery worse than adopting the hatreds of others as your own. No one demands we support populist regimes such as those of Fidel Castro, Hugo Chávez and Evo Morales, while in Europe Silvio Berlusconi, Le Pen, the Hungarian Viktor Orbán and other nationalist and xenophobic specimens are also hard to digest.

Our country has become the principal European investor in the region"

Spanish companies have a massive presence in Latin American countries in a smorgasbord of capital intensive sectors, which are highly regulated and exposed to the winds of public opinion. Spanish capital movements at first coincided with others made by US companies in the opposite direction: outgoing. But, as became all the more apparent at last November's summit meeting in Cádiz, across the Atlantic there is a market of 350 million people, where Spanish companies and Spanish people enjoy advantages due to a shared culture. Hence our country has become the principal European investor in the region, while the US is changing its order of geographical priorities.

In this context, it is hard to understand the behavior of Mariano Rajoy's government concerning the flight of Morales, whose plane was refused the use of airspace by France, Italy and Portugal. The pilot, warned of this, had to request an emergency landing in Vienna. Then the Spanish ambassador arrived on the scene, with transparent instructions to carry out a personal inspection of the aircraft or, in lieu of this, obtain assurances that Edward Snowden, wanted by Washington, was not aboard. The ambassador's servile mission, on behalf of the State Department, was all too obvious. It might have been asked of him that he behave this way on a basis of confirmed suspicions. But a Spanish ambassador has no need to accept impositions of this nature, or to accept incomprehensible restrictions on the use of airspace dictated by other partners and allies. All that might have been expected of him was that he ask his own government to have them lifted.

At last the presidential plane was able to refuel in the Canary Islands, but meanwhile the Latin Americans have put us in the same bag of servility on our part and rancor on theirs, damaging our special relations with them. Consider some precedents, honorable or despicable. In 1964, General Franco refused to second the American trade embargo on Cuba; while on the other hand, nobody in Spain inspected the CIA rendition flights carrying illegally captured suspects to Guantánamo for torture.

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