Spain’s defence minister visits United States

Spanish Defence Minister, Jose Bono, begins a four-day visit to the United States today.

Bono’s visit represents the latest of recent attempts made by the Spanish Government to mend some of the broken bridges in the relationship between Spain and the US.

The visit to the US has begun in Washington where Jose Bono will give a lecture today in the Woodrow Wilson Center on “International terrorism and defence”. Tomorrow the Spanish Defence Minister is expected to meet with Donald Rumsfeld in the Pentagon to discuss issues related to the defence programmes of both countries.

The Spanish Defence Minister is generally a very popular and charismatic figure in his own country. President of Castilla la Mancha Regional Government for 21 years, he contested the leadership of the Socialist party in 2000, backed by former Spanish president Felipe Gonzalez, and it was a surprise to most when he lost the contest to Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

Bono is one of the few practising Catholics in the Socialist government and tends to get on well with members of the Church (despite the tense relationship between the Spanish government and the Roman Catholic Church), all sides of the media, and members of other policital parties. It will be interesting to see if he is capable of charming Donald Rumsfeld.

After his meeting with the US Defence Secretary, Bono will travel to New York to visit the Spanish military boat Juan Sebastian Elcano and on 4th May he will visit the naval base in Norfolk Virginia where another Spanish ship is participating in military training operations organised by the North American Navy. Finally, the Spanish Defence Minister will visit Orlando to visit another military base, Tampa, and the factory of Spanish company Indra. He returns to Spain on Friday.