Spain’s Socialist government is rolling out the red carpet for Libya’s Dictator Moammar Gadhafi - yet again a sign that the government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero is hopelessly lost when it comes to foreign affairs.
It’s one thing that Spanish companies are after Libya’s oil money – after all so too are others, including many a US firm – but it’s quite another to allow Gadhafi to use Spain as a tool for redefining his image from a make-up wearing dictator that has a history of stomping on Human Rights.
This is a dictator that has crushed free press, repressed religious freedom, banned independent organizations, routinely tortures detainees, and incarcerates political prisoners.
Hardly the type of person that most people would invite to their house for tea.
But for the most part the press remains silent on his now forgotten past - I note that AP and others now refer to Gadhafi as Libya's president - and instead remarks on the newly-fashioned Gadhafi who travels with the blessing of the US following his widely-reported abandoning the support of terrorism and giving up plans to build a nuclear arms arsenal.
Gadhafi has already spent two days in Spain’s southern Andalusian province accompanied by an entourage of 500, including his famous Amazon bodyguards.
Hopes are the great poet Gadhafi will sprinkle some of his oil money on Spanish companies, just as he did last week in France where he signed almost $15 billion worth of contracts that included the purchase of a civilian nuclear reactor, as well as placing an order for 21 Airbus planes.
This isn’t really the first time that in Spain some businessmen will find themselves bowing lower than Gadhafi. I particularly remember just a few years ago the pressure that was placed on a certain oil company to support the Madrid art show of one of Gadhafi’s sons. If the support didn’t come, the consequences were well hinted.
Prime Minister Zapatero hopes that the visit of Gadhafi can also be a jumpstart for his Alliance of the Civilizations – a grab-bag of pseudo-intellectionalisms that promises to be, as Elvis Costello would say, all about “peace, love and understanding.”
The only problem, though, is that neither Zapatero nor the rest of his team have the slightest idea how to explain their Alliance of the Civilizations – but that didn’t stop the government from holding a meeting yesterday with the press to at least attempt to do so.
The shallowness of this program was obvious when one journalist asked if the Vatican had been asked to take part in the Alliance of the Civilizations. The response was “no,” arguing that the government didn’t feel this was the appropriate forum to mix the subject of religion.
You might guess the press was not too impressed with that answer – especially as it is specifically the issue of religion that is dividing much of the Arab and European worlds.