What is a nation to think when political figures and analysts are questioning the competency and intentions of their leader? Spain faces this dilemma as its Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero is challenged with pulling the country out of the economic slump, while redeeming himself from the negativity in the press and recent WikiLeaks cables.
Spain, like much of Europe and the industrialized world, is working to recover from the recession that began in 2008. The unemployment rate has reached a crippling 20 percent leaving desperate civilians to seek help from their prime minister. However, Zapatero’s credibility is impaired when several of the country’s 200 WikiLeaks cables feature prominent figures such as Homeland Security secretary, Janet Napolitano and U.S. Ambassador to Spain Eduardo Aguirre speaking against him.
“Zapatero has made many promises on such issues as shifting more workers from part-time contracts to full-time employment. However, his government has not yet taken any concrete steps to deal with the problem. On this and other matters, there is the need to move from talk to action,” said Jose Maria Fidalgo, Secretary General of Spain’s largest trade union confederation, CCOO (Comisiones Obreras) in a cable released December 16, 2010.
Another cable, released December 6, 2010 revealed an unflattering comment about Zapatero’s election into office. “It is important to recall that Zapatero, who is 43, has no experience whatsoever in government administration. He has served as a member of the Parliament since he was 26. The Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) was shocked that they won the elections and Zapatero and his people are scrambling to figure out what to do. He also made a number of campaign statements that might have come out differently had he thought he had a real chance of becoming president of the government of Spain,” read the cable, questioning his actual intentions and abilities beyond the political propaganda.
One cable even went as far to say that his English is better than he let on. “[Zapatero] does not speak English, although we suspect he can understand more than he lets on, so be careful around him,” said Napolitano in a cable released December 1, 2010.
The reaction to these cables have been heightened distrust in Zapatero’s capabilities and credibility. While many of the sources find him very intelligent and cunning, the underlying sentiment is that he is not trustworthy. The weakened economy and distressed, unemployed public and unfavorable representation in the cables, could affect his reelection in 2012.
It is important to keep the public as informed as possible when it comes to the abilities and controversies of their leader. Even when the talk is as petty as his understanding of English. The cables were informative and relatively unbiased. The public has a right to know the positive and negative hype of their prime minister.