The Trail of Failures In Zapatero’s Wake

Photo: Reuters, retrieved

José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero’s letter publicly asking the Venezuelan opposition to sign the negotiation agreement that chavismo unilaterally drafted puts him again front and center on Venezuela’s political war. For many observers, it confirmed that his role in the Santo Domingo talks was to lead the opposition into a trap that would have legitimised a fraudulent and unfair election, with the regime choosing not only the date, but also its rival.

Suspicions on Zapatero’s motives are nothing new, and are well founded; he has avoided open criticism of the regime, even when the brutal repression and the attacks on democracy intensified to unseen levels, and had no problems with paying much needed visits to el presidente obrero at a time when only Caribbean oil-beneficiaries, second-rank anti-imperialist apparatchiks and a certain Portuguese diplomat were willing to be photographed with an increasingly isolated and grotesque tyrant.

Why would a former head of government smear his name like this? Why use one’s institutional prestige and weight to help clean the image of this kind of regime when even some of its traditional allies abandoned ship? Is it ideological affinity, or are we looking at a secret craving for a Nobel Peace Prize?

When he was surprisingly elected to lead the opposition, Zapatero was an unknown — a backbench member of Parliament with no legislative work and a mediocre university career as background. According to all polls, he was set to lose against Aznar’s chosen successor, Mariano Rajoy, but then the 11-M massacre came, the Popular Party (centre-right, by then in power) blundered badly — insisting ETA was responsible, when all available evidence pointed to islamist terrorists — and PSOE’s Zapatero took advantage by blaming Aznar (instead of the terrorists), and his support of Bush’s Iraq adventure.

Why use one’s institutional prestige and weight to help clean the image of a regime when even some of its traditional allies abandoned ship?

He was elected, in other words, in the flukiest of flukes.

Opportunistically or following a well thought plan, Zapatero completely abandoned his moderate persona as soon as he reached power; cashing in on the political tension that polarised Spain, he played on an agenda seemingly drafted by a high school leftist political assembly, and pulled the Spanish stabilization troops out of Iraq even before the date he had agreed for doing so.

In Madrid, at a military parade where American soldiers symbolically took part, Zapatero decided to show despise by staying seated when the bars and stripes flag passed. Spain had no relationship with Washington, but an excellent rapport with Chávez (through Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos, while cashing in on shady deals) and a great policy of hugging Islamist dictators. The Eastern half of that project was headed by no one other than today’s Turkish dictator Erdogan (Endrogán, for their mutual friend Maduro).

At home, he changed Aznar’s Uribe-like policy with ETA and started a negotiation that ended with the group stopping its activities (but not disbanded) and their political branch was democratically elected at many basque institutions. To safeguard that dialogue (that wasn’t called off when ETA bombed Madrid’s airport, killing two Ecuadorians), Zapatero silenced and sidelined the most critical voices at the Socialist Party, presenting them as hysterical freaks and right-wingers.Their principle-based positions and unwillingness to make any compromise with the terrorists that killed hundreds of Spaniards were not convenient for a government that needed to humanize them and justify the negotiation.

Another one of his brainchilds was the Memoria Histórica project, a questioning of the  national reconciliation that allowed a smooth transition to democracy, after civil war and almost four decades of dictatorship. Presented as an even-handed attempt to give back dignity to the victims, it was really state-sponsored partisan revisionism, only considering the victims killed by Franco’s regime, and ignoring those who suffered the well documented abuses by communist and other leftists during and even before the war. In that new official discourse, the civil war was a battle between democracy and fascism that ended up with the latter’s victory. The bando republicano victims simply didn’t exist, and Zapatero deleted them from the picture as he deleted his franquista grandfather from his bio.

Zapatero appears to be highly ideological, with a holier-than-thou attitude who puts political allegiances and party interests before any personal loyalty, facts and principles.

Zapatero’s plans (which included adding fuel to the Catalonian fire and isolating and delegitimizing the PP) didn’t go unchallenged, with hundred of thousands accusing his sectarianism and compromises with ETA. The strongest opposition came from the most conservative parts of society, often with “undesirable” class origins or “too vulgar” ways to fit the strict aesthetic and moral canon of the new Spaniard.

Anyone raising the alarm about the aggressive culture war Zapatero was waging on every corner of Spain’s life was dismissed as a sower of “crispación”, the worst sin in the times of sonrisas and talante.

But the economic crisis came, and idealism has a limit in old, placid Europe. Zapatero refused to acknowledge the mere existence of a crisis (again, decrying critics as pavosos catastrofistas), delaying the necessary adjustments as much as he could. His calculated inaction made the problems worse than they should’ve been, and he fooled the country to win his last election.

But you can’t fool reality. The economy painfully came to the rescue, and he just had to go.

His record as president gives the picture of someone highly ideological, with a holier-than-thou attitude who puts political allegiances and party interests before any personal loyalty, facts and principles. In one of his most defining phrases during his tenure, he said: “las palabras deben estar al servicio de la política, y no la política al servicio de las palabras”. That is, the meaning of words, our only way to represent reality, is so malleable that you can deform to fit your (changing) political interests.

We don’t know what Zapatero is looking for in Venezuela, but he’s a proud and convinced relativist, and we won’t see him tracing a clear line between thugs and victims — those humiliated, oppressed and killed he’s too happy to ignore.


  1. Simply, as does Pope Francis, Zapatero favors socialist illiberalism over institutional democracy. Their “dialogue” was perversely structured so that in the face of chavista coercion, all the opposition had to compromise was institutional democracy itself, beginning with the recall election. Unfortunately, although the opposition pulled back from expressly agreeing to the compromise of institutional democracy (apart from the recall election), the chavista illiberal consolidation proceeded apace under the cover of the “dialogue.” In that, the Pope and Zapatero largely achieved their goal, even if they failed at getting validation for the socialist exception to democratic rule.

    Both Pope Francis and Zapatero will appear again, most likely as Morales consolidates himself against Bolivian democracy. The international community must recognize them as the illiberal, anti-democratic actors that they are, and not fall into such a perversely structured “dialogue” again.

  2. This despicable Zapatero character must have had a severe lobotomy if he truly believes Chavismo is good for Klepto-Cubazuela. It’s beyond retarded, no “ideological” fool can be stupid enough to truly think so.

    That’s why I tend to think he’s just a political mercenary, PAID millions of Euros to play a funky part for the Genocidal Tropical Tyranny. Bribed. Period. A criminal with no regard for human suffering, in other words, a malevolent psychopath driven by hard cold CASH.

  3. I am a bit confused ….did the opposition reject …the govts original proposal or the proposal made by the intermediaries or a version of the latter , I understood perhaps wrongly that the intermediaries proposal had many points which did deal with the oppos concern in ways that arguably might be capable of conditiona acceptance ……but that the oppo having rejected it made the govt revert to its original position leading to a break in the negotiations !! Ive read nothing in this blog that gave a breakdown of the different issues and how each proposal dealt with it …..!! Im no fan of Rodriguez Zapatero , I am rather doubtful of the brilliance of his intelect and can maybe support the view that he is one of those goody goody starry eyed left wing people who fall prey to supporting settlement terms that dont really address the substantive problems a conflict presents ….., can someone help me understand what was the proposal which Rodriguez Zapatero was supporting in the end….

    • Thanks Bill. Zapatero may be everything this person claims, but the post reads like a series of jumbled declarations and insinuations based on information he has unhelpfully kept to himself.

      i.e. “For many observers…” I don’t care what many observers think. “Many observers” think men did not land on the moon.

      “Suspicions …well founded”. What?

      “Opportunistically following a well thought plan ” makes no sense.

      Editors! This post reads like something from the comments section.

      • Please indicate just what was written that was false or incorrect?

        Is your “personhood” threatened by (perceived) microagressions from writers who you disagree with?

        Zap has never denied his alignment with Chavez or Maduro. He has shown no indication that he is an honest mediator in any of the discussions.

    • Here is an inside look at the last round of “dialogue” from El Pais:

      It includes this gem regarding what Zapatero wanted the MUD to accept:

      `One of the biggest criticisms that the intervention of the former Spanish president has received is that he inherently assumed the attitude of the Maduro government. To the point that he tried to convince the opposition that it had to understand that the Maduro Executive does not believe in “alternability” [election winners alternating in the Presidency], as at least four sources agree. “He ended up becoming a messenger, not a mediator,” assure several attendees.’

      The whole article is translated to English here, if you prefer it that way:

  4. “Words must be at the service of Politics instead of Politics at the service of Words.” Perhaps with more context that phrase could have a different meaning.

    But it is a really weird phrase to say, somewhat incongruent and philosophically challenging. It is hard to put a hierarchy to these things to begin with.
    Lets swap words:
    “Math must be at the service of Politics instead of Politics at the service of Math.”
    Looks like it doesn’t have much sense either way and I’m simply wasting my time.

    It appears that for Zapatero Politics should be an end in itself instead of a means to an end.
    This kind of expression reveals a very rigid dogmatic person that have lost sense of what things are all about. No different than Chavismo where ideology seems to to take precedence above everything else.

    • I think people just underestimae how Spanish politics work. The truth is as great as it was economically and made Spain a first world industrial European power (again), the mayority if Spanish people didn’t want to live in constant fear of not being Catholic and Nationalist enough. Lots of people didn’t like even the slightest hint of Francist policies.

      Everybody knows how illegitimate the government in venezuela is. In Spain in 1982, PSOE became the oposite the most hyper legitimate power in Spain. There are few governments around the world as legitmized as that 82 PSOE government. So, what I mean is for the most part PSOE was the strongest power in Spain so winning as leader of PSOE was not exactly dificult for a long time. it’s a mess because lots of the “good stuff” they didn’t want to do it but they had no choice like the EU that forced fiscal dicipline and low inflation and also ironclad the democratic procss with the 1978 constitution that UCD lead.

      So with so much legitimacy and support PSOE and company can do whatever they want they are only subject not acuntability of the Spanish people (whogave them a ton of power) but to laws that chain them and EU oversight. That’s the kind of enviroment that breeds these people and maybe 1% of people in Spain want to increase freedom and properity the rest for the most part aren’t going to change things for the better.

  5. Congrats to the author, an Exelent article. Thanks for the inside of how yet another criminal socialist does his filthy work. Socialism equals Communism equals Fascism!!!!!

  6. He wasn’t a mediator, someone who was there to facilitate the meeting in the middle… finding common ground. He was a middleman for Chavismo. Everyone knew this.

    In the end, it ended as it should have. Zapatero looks the fool, his legacy in tatters. I wouldn’t doubt for a second that the guy had hopes that this would re-ignite is failed political career. Maybe even a “Nobel Peace Prize” (not that THAT is a big deal… look at some of the recent recipients).

    He is a fraud, and what happened during the dialogue was its natural end.

  7. There is an old saying relating to negotiations and that is ‘never enter into a negotiation you cant walk away from ‘, because ordinary people are often task oriented and once they start on a task they are loath to abandon it , and then become like slaves to the need of having negotiations succeed whatever the price to make them succeed …….I suspect that Rodriguez Zapatero fell into that trap , he realized that the oppos best option was to go to the elections even if they were set up to lose them in exchage for being allowed to survive by a regime that was resolved to remain in power at whatever the cost …… was a bad deal but even then the best deal that could be made with a regime that doesnt believe in alternativity .

    Assuming Rodriguez Zapatero good faith , he wasnt able to convince the oppo that the best alternative consisted to ensure their survival even at the cost of allowing the regime to conduct an election where it would do every fraudulent thing it could to bring on a result favourable to its continuation ….!!

    He was left embarrased by his failure and now must protest by claiming that the settlement he favoured was the only one that might succeed with a govt that doesnt believe in alternativity …

    Now the regime will likely take a road where it will shamelessly supress all organized dissent and take up a totally hegemonic governance of the country !! This changes every thing for the oppo which is no longer allowed to entertain any illusion of a peaceful transition , the new leaders will have to assumme the rule of street fighters to continue the struggle , something that they dont feel comfortable doing , these are men of suits and ties and whats now coming will probably be much more violent….and uncontrollable ….!!

    • The rule that I learned a long time ago was to never put someone in a situation where they have nothing left to lose. In this context negotiations will never succeed.
      For the regime it is a binary equation. Complete control vs. complete destruction. All of the major players face the possibility of the remainder of their days being spent in prison and the loss of their ill gotten lucre.
      There is no middle ground.
      Free elections will remove them. The recognition of the National Assembly would be the end of the ANC and the corrupt Supreme Court.
      The negotiations were just a side show.

  8. “Now the regime will likely take a road where it will shamelessly supress all organized dissent and take up a totally hegemonic governance of the country !!”

    Now? Guess I’ve been dreaming.

    • Exactly, the country has been there for years, even before departure of el supreme galáctico comandante. The feckless mud can’t organize a resistance since they have no common goals, including agreement for pushing out the regime, or what to do when the regime eventually departs. And they wouldn’t support the leaders that could lead a resistance, and tried to in 2014(?), those leaders are gone. This will be in the hands of the streets and will be ugly… everyone else can line up neatly in single file to depart at the border of your choice, please leave all valuables behind.

  9. The mud has been playing a card game against a card sharp regime which uses marked cards and all kind of dirty tricks to play the game . this is known but still we demand that they win the game by playing straight and per the rules and am dissapointed when they dont , they overstimate what the organized oppo can do against an opponent who fraudently holds all the advantages and has no scruples about abusing its power to sabotage every moves it makes ……. !! This is unfair and helps the regimes elaborately devised strategy to discredit and divide the oppo ……., its like having one of the boxers in a boxing match fight with one of its arms tied behind his back and complain that he doesnt knock the other boxer by knockdown ……what we have to realize is that even though the government has been playing this game with some level of disimulation until its disastrous defeat at the parlaimentary elections after that the have steadily grown more shameless and openly abusive in how they fight the opposition …….that s one of the reasons why the whole world has now turned against the regime and ever more severe sanctions are being placed against it , because they have become so overt in their despotism that not even normally detached govts are prepared to turn the other eye as they usually do ……..!! The advancing of presidential elections to april is a clear sign that the regime expects much worse time ahead and they know that time being against them they must act fast to at least create a fachade of gossamer legitimacy before worsening conditions make even than impossible …!!

  10. Waking up and reading various comments here stating a non-violent transition is no longer an option has made my day. FINALLY people are seeing the light, this Cuban Narco Corrupt Dictatorship ain’t EVER gonna give up its power without rojo rojito blood coloring the streets. CIVIL WAR, as I’ve been saying for a very long time now and have been ridiculed for many times in the past, IS THEY ONLY WAY OUT. There are more than enough very wealthy anti chavistas around that would finance this CW with a huge smile on their face. Yes the collectivos and tupamaros are armed and would put up a fight but a vast majority of those cunts are opportunist that would probably not fight until the last man standing. Bunch of cobardes q son. The average soldier is going hungry and so does his family. Imho a CW wouldn’t last more then a couple of months if that. Besides freedom for the people a CW would also mean that there wouldn’t be any negotiations and ALL high-ranking chavistas could be either killed or captured so they don’t escape their judgement day. Furthermore a CW would probably get support from Uncle Sam in many ways and ensure Chavismo never ever gets a chance to reestablish it self ever again. Civil War is a win-win scenario in so many ways.

  11. I will be glad to see a new topic posted, and the photo of that guy removed from my computer screen. Political pornography is something I find offensive.


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