After short visit, US president vows to return to Spain someday

Barack Obama received a variety of gifts from Spanish leaders, including a valuable copy of Don Quixote, a book about the Civil War and a leg of ham

The president of the United States spent under 24 hours in Spain after cutting his trip short due to the Dallas shootings back home.

But in that time, Barack Obama managed to meet with King Felipe VI, acting prime minister Mariano Rajoy, and three opposition leaders: Pedro Sánchez of the Socialist Party, Pablo Iglesias of Podemos and Albert Rivera of Ciudadanos.

I will definitely return to Spain, because Spain is beautiful. The culture, the food, the people

Barack Obama

Besides Madrid, Obama also made a stop at the US military base of Rota, in the southern province of Cádiz, where no American president had set foot in its entire 63-year-history. Plans for a visit to the Andalusian capital of Seville were scrapped as Obama sought to return to the US as soon as possible in the wake of the Texas attack.

In visiting the country, Obama followed a tradition that began in 1970, when Richard Nixon made a trip to Spain while it was still under the rule of General Francisco Franco. Since then, every sitting president has made an official visit to Spain at least once.

The press

At a press conference on Sunday, Obama made a very brief comment about the upcoming elections in his own country, noting that “the nature of the relationship between Spain and the United States does not depend on the party in power.”

He also had words of praise for the country, expressing hope that it will not be “another 15 years before a US president comes again.”

“I will definitely return to Spain, because Spain is beautiful. The culture, the food, the people,” he added. “My daughters also love coming here. If we tell them we are coming here, that’s a good way to bribe them.”

Mariano Rajoy

Obama and Rajoy at La Moncloa.
Obama and Rajoy at La Moncloa.Mandel Ngan (AFP)

Acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, of the conservative Popular Party (PP), gave the US president a leg of Spanish ham, complete with a cutting stand and carving knife. Obama responded in kind, offering Rajoy a glass box with his own signature engraved on the inside.

Rajoy said he told Obama that Spain urgently needs to cement its economic stability and pass a budget for next year. He also cited his own biggest concerns for the country: jobs, the welfare state and the fight against terrorism.

The opposition

Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera, who was the first of the opposition members to meet with the US president, underscored his own party’s support to Spanish membership in NATO. He explained that Ciudadanos is “a centrist party” that “defends policies of change and regeneration in Spain.” Rivera also announced that he will attend the Democratic Party’s Philadelphia convention on July 27 and 28.

Pedro Sánchez, the Socialist Party nominee, revealed that he and Obama discussed bilateral cooperation. “I am thrilled to have been able to speak with @POTUS about the political situation and the necessary cooperation between Spain and the United States,” wrote Sánchez in a tweet.

As for Pablo Iglesias, head of the left-wing, anti-austerity Podemos, he gave the US president a book about the Lincoln Brigade, which fought on the republican side during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).

In it, Iglesias wrote the following dedication: “The first Americans who came to Europe to fight against fascism were the men and women of the Lincoln Brigade. Please convey to the American people the gratitude felt by Spanish democrats for the anti-fascist example provided by these heroes. Among them was Oliver Law, the first African American to lead US troops. In memory of these heroes, a warm hug [for you] President Obama.”

King Felipe VI

From King Felipe VI, the US president received what is being described as a jewel of a book: an English edition of Don Quixote, bound in leather entirely by hand and translated by John Rutherford, a professor of Spanish literature at Queens College in Oxford.

English version by Susana Urra.

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