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Profile: Jose Maria Aznar

Positions that Jose Maria Aznar has held:

  • Prime Minister of Spain

Jose Maria Aznar was a participant or observer in the following events:

Spanish police arrest 16 alleged al-Qaeda operatives in Barcelona, Girona, and other cities in northeastern Spain. Officials say the men may have links to the recent alleged ricin plot in Britain (see January 5, 2003). [CBC News, 1/24/2003] Police allegedly discover large quantities of bomb-making material, manuals on chemical warfare, and equipment to manufacture false credit cards and identity documents, as well as a cache of timers, fuses and remote-control devices. [Time, 1/26/2003] Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar says the people arrested “were preparing to commit attacks”; other officials say that a major attack has been foiled. Since the 9/ 11 attacks, 35 suspected Islamic terrorists have been arrested in Spain. [CBC News, 1/24/2003] The British media quickly identifies chemicals confiscated by Spanish police as ricin. However, it soon emerges that the Spanish police report refers to “resina” (resin). Other “evidence” gathered in the raid soon proves to be equally useless. The chemicals discovered by police are comprised of “two drums with liquids which in the first analysis contain aliphatic hydrocarbons, and a bottle, also with liquid, in which appear substances present in resins and synthetic rubber.” Subsequent tests prove that the liquids are harmless. Tests by US experts on the alleged ricin powder reveal it to be detergent. The electronic equipment proves to be equally innocuous (mobile phones, wires, etc.). It is also revealed that the raid was instigated by a French examining magistrate, Jean-Louis Bruguiere, dubbed Europe’s leading al-Qaeda investigator. Bruguiere had claimed that four of the Algerians arrested by French police in December in connection with the planned bombing of Strasburg cathedral had been in contact with the suspects. But when Guillermo Ruiz Polanco—the Spanish examining magistrate in charge of the case—asks to see the French court’s evidence, he is met with bureaucratic delay. Then, a month after the arrests, Bruguiere communicates he will not be asking for the extradition of any of the 16. Even Mohamed Amine Benaboura, who allegedly lived with one of the French al-Qaeda suspects, or Mohamed Tahraoui, who was found with a false French passport, arouse no interest from Paris. By April, all the suspects will be released, the court citing lack of evidence. “Very weak,” is Polanco’s view of the evidence the police have presented so far against the Algerians and Moroccans accused of plotting mass murder. [New Statesman, 4/14/2003]

Entity Tags: Guillermo Ruiz Polanco, Jean-Louis Bruguiere, Mohamed Tahraoui, Jose Maria Aznar, Mohamed Amine Benaboura, Al-Qaeda

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The Bush administration quietly sends US diplomats to meet with the top officials of several UN Security Council member states in an attempt to influence their vote on any future resolutions on Iraq. A US diplomat tells the Associated Press, “The order from the White House was to use ‘all diplomatic means necessary,’ and that really means everything.”
Mexico - Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman and Kim Holmes, the assistant secretary of state for international organizations, are sent to Mexico City, where they encounter stiff resistance. The American diplomats reportedly warn Mexican officials, “Any country that doesn’t go along with us will be paying a very heavy price.” Henry Kissinger also makes a trip to Mexico warning its officials that the Bush administration would be “very unhappy” if Mexico opposes the US at the UN. Towards the end of the month, US Ambassador Tony Garza says that Congress might attempt to punish Mexico economically if it fails to support the US position at the UN. [Associated Press, 2/24/2003; Washington Post, 3/1/2003 Sources: Unnamed Mexican diplomat] A Mexican diplomat describes the pressure as “very intense” and adds that “the warnings are real” and having an impact on Mexican President Vincent Fox. Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar also visits Mexico, but fails to get its support for a second resolution. [Associated Press, 2/24/2003 Sources: Unnamed Mexican diplomat] Mexico proves to be one of the most difficult countries to win over to the US side because there is “little the Bush administration [can] use to scare or entice Mexico now since it does not receive US aid and the one thing it had wanted most—legalizing the status of undocumented Mexicans in the United States—was taken off the table more than one year ago.” Additionally, the Mexican congress, its news media, and 75% of the Mexican population are strongly opposed to an invasion of Iraq. Even more threatening to US hopes for a second resolution is a pact between Mexico and Chile. The two governments agreed that each will abstain if the US, Britain, France, Russia and China fail to come to an agreement. Commenting on the deal, a Chilean diplomat tells the Associated Press, “We’re just not going to be used or bought off by either side.” But James R. Jones, a former US ambassador to Mexico, predicts that Fox will likely capitulate to Mexican business interests, which are dependent on a close relationship with the US. “If Mexico is not going to be good neighbors politically, it’s going to hurt them economically,” he says. [Associated Press, 2/24/2003; Associated Press, 2/26/2003; Washington Post, 3/1/2003]
Angola, Guinea and Cameroon - On February 24, US Assistant Secretary of State Walter Kansteiner meets with Angola’s President Jose Eduardo dos Santos in Luanda. Speaking of Angola’s relationship with the US, Angolan Ambassador Ismael Gaspar Martins tells the Associated Press, “For a long time now, we have been asking for help to rebuild our country after years of war,” and adds, “No one is tying the request to support on Iraq but it is all happening at the same time.” A US diplomat tells the news service, “In Africa, the message is simple: time is running out and we think they should support us.” [Associated Press, 2/24/2003] A major issue for Guinea and Cameroon is the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which gives African exporters preferential access to American markets. The act stipulates that beneficiaries must not “engage in activities that undermine US national security or foreign policy interests.” Angola is not currently eligible for the benefits provided under AGOA because of political corruption and its poor human rights record. But the US is considering overlooking these abuses in exchange for supporting its policy on Iraq. [London Times, 3/8/2003]

Entity Tags: Walter Kansteiner, US Congress, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, Kim Holmes, Henry A. Kissinger, James R. Jones, Jose Maria Aznar, Marc Grossman

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

President Bush and Prime Minister Aznar.President Bush and Prime Minister Aznar. [Source: Rod Aydelotte/Getty Image]President Bush tells Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar that the US will invade Iraq whether the United Nations Security Council passes a resolution or not (see February 24, 2003). The private conversation takes place at Bush’s Crawford, Texas ranch; the transcript of the conversation is not made public until September 26, 2007, when it is published in El Pais, Spain’s highest-circulation news daily; its accuracy will not be challenged by the White House. The transcript is prepared by Spain’s ambassador to the UN, Javier Ruperez, from a secret US transcript of the meeting. According to English translations of Ruperez’s Spanish transcript, Bush says the US will invade Iraq whether there is “a United Nations Security Council resolution or not.… My patience has ended. I’m not thinking of waiting beyond mid-March.… We have to get rid of Saddam [Hussein].… There are two weeks left.” Bush tells Aznar that Hussein’s government will be overthrown with little destruction, and that he is willing to play “bad cop” to British prime minister Tony Blair’s “good cop.” [Agence France-Presse, 9/26/2007; Harper's, 9/26/2007]
Bush Threatens Economic Retaliation If Other Countries Do not Support Invasion - Aznar pleads for patience from Bush, and says that a UN resolution is vital. Aznar notes that public opinion in Spain is heavily against the war. Bush retorts that should certain countries not support the war in the UN, they could face retaliation from the US: “Countries like Mexico, Chile, Angola, and Cameroon should know that what’s at stake is the security of the United States.” Bush mentions negative votes could endanger a free trade agreement with Chile and financial support for Angola. [Agence France-Presse, 9/26/2007]
'Chinese Water Torture' - Bush says that Hussein is playing endless games with his “pretenses” towards disarmament. “This is like Chinese water torture,” he says. “We have to put an end to it.… Saddam Hussein will not change and will continue playing.” He says that the US has a package of humanitarian aid already in the works, and has prepared for a post-Hussein Iraq. It is possible, Bush says, that Iraq will be reorganized into a federation, presumably of semi-autonomous ethnic enclaves for the Shi’a, Sunnis, and Kurds. To Aznar’s statement that he is working closely with France’s Jacques Chirac to get a resolution passed in the UN, Bush replies: “Chirac knows perfectly well the reality. His intelligence services have explained. The Arab countries are sending Chirac a clear message: Saddam Hussein must go. The problem is that Chirac thinks he’s Mister Arab and is making life impossible.” [Harper's, 9/26/2007; ABC News, 9/26/2007]
No Exile for Hussein; Bush 'At Peace' With Himself - Bush says that suggestions from Egyptian leaders in touch with Hussein that the Iraqi leader could go into exile with $1 million and documents about Iraq’s weapons programs are not being considered. Hussein is “a thief, a terrorist and a war criminal,” he says. After Hussein is overthrown, the US will prosecute him in the International Criminal Court, Bush says. Bush is well aware of the “destruction and death” that the war will bring, he avers, and he is the one who will have to console “the mothers and the widows” of the dead. He says he is optimistic because he believes he is right: “I am optimistic because I believe I am right. I am at peace with myself.” [Agence France-Presse, 9/26/2007; Editor & Publisher, 9/26/2007]

Entity Tags: Jose Maria Aznar, El Pais, Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC), George W. Bush, Javier Ruperez, United Nations Security Council, Jacques Chirac, Tony Blair, Mother Teresa, Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Four Madrid trains were bombed on the morning of March 11, 2004 (see 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004), and in the evening on the same day, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar calls the editors of Spain’s major newspapers and tells them that ETA, a Basque separatist group, is behind the attacks. In fact, so far there is no evidence suggesting ETA involvement in the bombings. However, investigators have found bomb detonators in a van near the sight of one of the bombings, and the van also has a cassette tape of the Koran in it, suggesting Islamist militants were behind the bombings (see 10:50 a.m.-Afternoon, March 11, 2004). At the same time, Spanish intelligence is wiretapping most of the top ETA leaders, and during the day they intercept calls between leaders expressing shock about the bombings. The bombings also do not fit with ETA’s modus operandi, which is to bomb government targets and avoid civilian casualties. Aznar is aware of all this, and even tells Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, leader of the opposition party, about the van evidence in a phone call that same evening. But Aznar nonetheless insists that “there is no doubt who did the attacks,” and that ETA is to blame. There are nationwide elections scheduled in just three days, and polls show that Aznar’s successor, Mariano Rajoy of the conservative Popular Party, is leading Zapatero of the Socialist party by about five points. ETA has a long history of bombings in Spain, and Aznar himself survived an ETA car bomb in 1995. He has made the elimination of ETA his top priority. In fact, Aznar has planned a series of raids against ETA on March 12 in hopes that will help boost his party’s chances in the elections. If ETA is responsible, it will vindicate Aznar’s campaign against them and presumably boost his party’s chances in the election. [New Yorker, 7/26/2004]

Entity Tags: Mariano Rajoy, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Euzkadi Ta Azkatasuna, Jose Maria Aznar

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

On March 14, 2004, just three days after the Madrid train bombings (see 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004), Spain holds national elections. The opposition Socialist party wins. The Socialists go from 125 seats to 164 in the 350-seat legislature. The ruling Popular Party falls from 183 seats to 148. As a result, Socialist Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero replaces Jose Maria Aznar as Spain’s prime minister. Zapatero had pledged to withdraw Spain’s troops from the war in Iraq. In declaring victory, Zapatero again condemns the war in Iraq and reiterates his pledge to withdraw. He keeps his pledge and withdraws all of Spain’s troops over the next couple of months. [Associated Press, 3/15/2004; New Yorker, 7/26/2004]
Victory for Al-Qaeda? - Some will see this as a strategic victory for al-Qaeda. A treatise written by al-Qaeda leader Yusef al-Ayeri in late 2003 suggested the political utility of bombing Spain in order to force them to withdraw their troops from Iraq (see December 2003). For instance, an editor at the conservative Spanish newspaper ABC will later say, “I doubt whether anyone can seriously suggest that Spain has not acted in a way that suggests appeasement.”
Angry Voters - But Spanish voters may not have voted out of fear of being attacked again because of its Iraq commitment so much as anger at the ruling party for attempting to hide evidence linking the bombing to al-Qaeda and falsely blaming Basque separatists instead (see Evening, March 11, 2004, March 12, 2004, 4:00 p.m., March 13, 2004). [New Yorker, 7/26/2004] For instance, the Guardian will report, “The spectacular gains made by [the Socialist party] were in large part a result of the government’s clumsy attempts at media manipulation following the Madrid bombs on Thursday.… The party had just three days to avoid the charge that it had attracted the bombers by supporting a war that was opposed by 90% of Spaniards.… There would have been a double bonus for the [Popular Party] if they could have successfully deflected the blame onto the Basque terrorist group, ETA. A central plank of the government’s election platform had been that [the Socialists] are ‘soft’ on Basque terrorism.” [Guardian, 3/15/2004]

Entity Tags: Yusef al-Ayeri, Al-Qaeda, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Jose Maria Aznar

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The Popular Party led by Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar is voted out of power on March 14, 2004 (see March 14, 2004). In December 2004, the incoming prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero of the Socialist party, will claim that shortly after the election Aznar wiped out all computer records at the prime minister’s office from the period between the Madrid train bombings on March 11 (see 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004) and the elections three days later. Zapatero will tell a parliamentary commission: “There was nothing, absolutely nothing… everything had been wiped. There is nothing from March 11 to March 14 in the prime minister’s office.” Only some paper documents remain. During those days, the ruling party strongly asserted that ETA, a Basque separatist group, was behind the bombings, even as investigators quickly uncovered overwhelming evidence that Islamist militants were the real culprits (see Evening, March 11, 2004, March 12, 2004, 4:00 p.m., March 13, 2004). Zapatero will accuse Aznar’s government of having tried to frame ETA for the bombings. “It was massive deceit,” he says. [Guardian, 12/14/2004]

Entity Tags: Euzkadi Ta Azkatasuna, Jose Maria Aznar, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Recently retired Spanish Prime Minister Jose María Aznar says to a parliamentary investigation, “There is absolute proof that shows… a connection between ETA terrorists and Islamic terrorism.… I am one of those who believe that all [forms of] terrorism end up being connected.” ETA are a Basque separatist group. According to the Guardian, Aznar’s political party lost a national election three days after the March 2004 Madrid train bombings (see 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004) “partly because voters mistrusted his government’s initial insistence that ETA, rather than Islamists, was to blame.” Since then, little evidence has come forward suggesting any ETA link with the bombing, although some of the Arab bomb suspects had contacts with some ETA associates in prison several years before. Aznar denies that his government lied about what it knew regarding who was responsible for the bombings. “My conscience is clear… we told the truth about what we knew.” [Guardian, 11/29/2004] Many Spaniards, especially supporters of Aznar’s conservative Popular Party, continue to assert that there was an ETA link. The Observer comments, “Few experts, however, give credence to the ETA theory. Some see it as an attempt by the [Popular] Party to muddy the waters in a vain bid to save the party’s battered reputation.” [Observer, 11/28/2004]

Entity Tags: Euzkadi Ta Azkatasuna, Jose Maria Aznar

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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