The former prime minister responds with a hand gesture to insulting jeers from students at the University of Oviedo
EL PAÍS – JAVIER CUARTAS / AGENCIAS – Oviedo – 18/02/2010 (English Translation)(Emphasis Mine)
The former Prime Minister and President of the Foundation for Analysis and Social Studies (FAES) , José María Aznar spoke today during a “rough” conference on the crisis at the University of Oviedo, the ability of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero to achieve consensus or face economic situation because, in his view, “the head of the arsonists can never be the captain of the firefighters and Spain needs a large team of firefighters.”
Before, during and after the speech, a group of students protested at the visit and rebuked him with slogans like “Aznar, a fascist, you are the terrorist.” The speaker responded with their insulting gesture with his middle finger to leave the room, and within, but with phrases like “nothing happens” or “can not live without me” or, simply, silence. The controversial act caused many reactions, following accession to the criticism.
On arrival at the Faculty of Economics, President of FAES had to enter through the back door of the building instead of the front door with a score of youths with placards and high on the pages that read: Aznar, war criminal, Lies of Mass Destruction, Ansar, toady of Bush and other derogatory messages, while they shouted “fascist,” “murderer,” “terrorist” and “off campus”.
“Ask consensus is useless
Minutes before noon, the group of protesters moved to the vicinity of the Aula Magna, where the speech was called to 1230, organized by the Foundation and New Generations of the PP. The students carried a banner that said Aznar, “¡rojos!” [war criminal], while chanting slogans such as “Aznar, fascista, tú eres el terrorista”, “Fuera los fascistas de la Universidad”, “Aznar al talego como Vera y Barrionuevo”, “No a la guerra” y “PSOE y PP la misma mierda es” [“Aznar, a fascist, you are the terrorist,” “Out with the fascists of the University”, “No war “and” PSOE and PP is the same shit. “ Members of private security and the organization had closed the passage to the students to the conference room, and stayed in the corridors, with their chants and guarded by security.
After the commotion, Aznar was accompanied by regional leaders of the PP, who also entered by the back door into the auditorium, packed with hundreds of students and positions of the PP, which received with loud applause, applause and praises of “presidente” to counter the shouts and whistles from the crowd. The speech started 15 minutes late.
In his speech , he says:
España haya más de cuatro millones de parados, o en materia de educación, cuando el país “registra el mayor fracaso escolar de Europa”
Spain has more than four million unemployed, and in the matter of education, the country “registers the greatest scholastic failure of Europa”
According to Aznar, to overcome the crisis, [Spain] must change course lost in 2004 when the PP lost the elections and Zapatero arrived in La Moncloa, and received the values of transition.
Besides the incident at the entrance, Aznar was interrupted during his speech by several youths at different times called him “murderer” or “criminal” and were asked to leave the University. The first occurred at 12.52 by a youth with paper signs and shouts of “fascista”. Those attending the ceremony booed them, some shouting “¡rojos!” including – as they were expelled from the premises by members of the organization and private security. Outside, continued the original group, who received with cheers by those expelled. The scene was repeated four times thereafter the cry of “¡criminal!”, “¡cabrón!” o “¡mentiroso!”. The former president responded with phrases like “bueno, no pasa nada” o “hay algunos que parecen empeñados en demostrar que no pueden vivir sin mí” o sin comentarios. [“well, nothing’s wrong” or “there are some who seem bent on proving they can not live without me” or without comments. ] The bulk of the audience applauded his words and they chanted “presidente, presidente”.
“Ask consensus is useless
After ensuring that his political career “has been, is and will remain very strong” and has dedicated his life to “improve the situation of Spain,” added he believes in Spanish and in their ability to overcome the crisis “if is well focused and join forces. However, it has warned that if political consensus now calls on the basis that has led in Spain has more than four million jobless, or education, when the country “records the Europe’s largest academic failure, it would be a “consensus useless.” “These gentlemen who are conducting Spain have cast the country and not have the legitimacy to tell the rest to be clearing debris,” said Aznar, for whom you must change the direction of the country “with the best teams.”
In his view, to address education reform, labor, energy or work to overcome this crisis in which, in his view, have made three fundamental mistakes: to have halted the reform process begun in 1996, having denied the existence of a crisis and have taken steps contrary to those needed to recover lost competitiveness, without which it can re-create jobs. At the end of Aznar’s speech, which lasted 45 minutes, it was removed swiftly by the organizers. This time he went out the front door and the protesters themselves have seen him from afar and have re-tighten the shouts and insults. It was then that the former prime minister, surrounded by his bodyguards, he has responded with dismissive and obscene gesture, raising the middle finger of his left hand as shown in the picture.
What happened today is when he received strong boos at various universities in political talks as he endured another former President Felipe González in 1993 on account of corruption and the former Minister Josep Pique to Guantanamo in 2008.
VIDEO – AGENCIA ATLAS – 18-02-2010
The former prime minister, José María Aznar, has called for an electoral breakthrough because it believes that to overcome the crisis “head of the arson-Zapatero-can never be the captain of the firemen.” Speaking at a conference that offered in the Faculty of Economics, University of Oviedo, José María Aznar has said that the Government has no moral authority to lead out of the crisis because they have “cast the country” and not is legitimate to say now how to “pick up the debris.” Upon arrival at the event, was jeered by a group of students demonstrating outside the room.
AUDIO – Cadena Ser – 18-02-2010
José María Aznar (Wiki)
Aznar, born in Madrid in 1953, is the son of Manuel Aznar Acedo, army official, journalist and radio broadcaster, and grandson of Manuel Aznar Zubigaray, a prominent journalist during the Franco era. Both father and grandfather held governmental positions during the years of Spain under Franco. He studied law at the Complutense University of Madrid, graduating in 1975, becoming a Spanish Tax Authority inspector in 1976.
As a teenager, Aznar was a member of the Frente de Estudiantes Sindicalistas (FES), a Student Union supporting the falange, which after 1977 would become Falange Española Independiente (FEI). After the death of Francisco Franco and the restoration of democracy, Aznar joined Alianza Popular (AP)(the People’s Alliance) in January 1979, a few months after his wife. In March he became the Secretary General of the party in La Rioja, occupying the post until 1980. In February 1981 he joined the AP’s National executive committee. He became Assistant Secretary General in February 1982. On 26 October 1982 he was elected to the Parliament, representing Ávila. On 22 June 1985 he was elected to the presidency of the AP in Castile and Leon. On 2 December 1986 AP leader Manuel Fraga resigned following fierce internal party fighting in the aftermath of another failure to dislodge the ruling PSOE. Aznar was not considered senior enough to be a possible successor, and gave his support to the more right wing Miguel Herrero who lost the leadership battle to Fraga’s choice, Antonio Hernández Mancha, resulting in Aznar losing his post as Assistant Secretary General.
On 10 June 1987, having resigned his parliamentary seat, he was elected to the Cortes of Castile-León, where he was elected president of this Autonomous Region. Two years later, Aznar was voted by the National Executive Committee to be the new leader of his party, re-founded as the Partido Popular (People’s Party, or PP). With Fraga focused on the presidency of Galicia, Aznar was confirmed as leader of the PP at their 10th National Congress at the end of March 1990. In November the PP moved from the Conservative group in the European Parliament to the more centrist and Christian Democratic European People’s Party. On 6 June 1993 the PP again lost the general election, but improved on their previous performance by obtaining 34.8% of the vote. The PSOE lost its absolute majority and needed to form a coalition government with other parties in order to continue governing. The result was a disappointment for the PP as the opinion polls had predicted a victory for them. They did well in the 1994 European and 1995 local elections.
On 19 April 1995, Aznar’s armored car prevented him from being assassinated by an ETA bomb.
The PP won the 3 March 1996 general election with 37.6% of the vote, thus ending 13 years of PSOE rule. With 156 of the 350 seats (the PSOE won 141) Aznar had to reach agreements with two regional nationalist parties, Convergence and Unity (Catalan) and the Canary Islands Coalition, in order to govern with additional support from the Basque Nationalist Party. He was voted in as President with 181 votes in the Cortes Generales on 4 May and sworn in the next day by King Juan Carlos I.
First term (1996–2000)
The Aznar Government (Government) maintained the commitment of the previous government to join the European Union’s single currency and showed itself willing to take political risks in order to meet the requirements for membership. In the summer of 1996 it announced a decision to freeze the wages of civil servants in the following year and stood by that decision throughout the fall, despite a series of union-led demonstrations that culminated in protest marches by tens of thousands of Spaniards throughout the nation on 11 December.
The Government, with the backing of regional nationalist parties, passed a strict 1997 budget on 27 December, four days before time would have run out for its approval. The opposition United Left coalition argued that the spending cuts and tax adjustments contained in the budget would hurt the disadvantaged and benefit the rich. The budget aimed to enable Spain to lower its deficit to below 3% of gross domestic product, a requirement for joining the EU’s single currency.Aznar also announced the sale early in 1997 of the nation’s remaining minority stake (golden shares) in the Telefónica telecommunications company and the petroleum group Repsol. These golden shares in Telefonica and Repsol YPF, as well as in Endesa, Argentaria and Tabacalera, all presided over by people close to Aznar, have since been declared illegal by the European Union. This marked the beginning of a period of privatizations after the previous PSOE government had nationalized parts of the economy.
Spanish voters reelected Aznar in the 2000 general election with an outright majority. The PP obtained 44.5% of the vote and 183 seats. The Spanish electorate’s participation was the lowest for a general election in Spain in the post-Franco era.
After six years of relative political calm, when political debate was dominated by a consensus within the ruling party on economics, regional nationalism, and terrorism, several issues arose which polarized Spanish public opinion. Much in the style of UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, Aznar actively supported US President George W. Bush‘s War on Terrorism despite widespread public disapproval. Aznar met with Bush in a private meeting before 2003 invasion of Iraq to discuss the situation of in the UN Security Council. A El País leaked a partial transcript of the meeting. The government handling of the wreckage of the Greek Prestige tanker near the Spanish coast, which resulted in a major ecological disaster, also became a divisive issue.
He actively encouraged and supported the Bush administration’s foreign policy and the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, defending it on the basis of secret intelligence allegedly containing evidence of the Iraqi government’s nuclear proliferation. The majority of the Spanish population, including some PP members, were against the war. Spain’s major cities were the scene of the largest street demonstrations ever seen in the country as a result of the government’s participation in the invasion. Aznar lost some support from those who had voted for the PP in 2000. On a live TV interview aired on the public station while demonstrations were taking place on the streets, he asked the Spanish people to take his word assuring there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, which he had evidence of. This is now regarded as incorrect.
In January 2004 Aznar called a general election and designated his successor as candidate, Mariano Rajoy, sticking to a pledge of not seeking office for a third term. Despite political tensions, polls suggested that the Popular Party was set to win a third consecutive election. An opinion poll carried out by the government-run CIS (which had estimated that 92% of the Spanish people did not support the War in Iraq) in February 2004 estimated that the PP would win an election with 42.2% of the vote while the PSOE would only get 35.5%.
Madrid train bombings
Three days before the 2004 general election, 10 bombs killed 191 people in the 11 March 2004 Madrid train bombings. Initially, the government and the opposition stated publicly that it was possible the bombings may have been the work of ETA. However, the PP government continued to blame ETA even after evidence that the attacks may have been the work of an Islamist group emerged, having the Minister of Foreign Affairs Ana Palacio instruct all Spanish diplomats to place the blame on ETA at every opportunity. The public perception that the government hid information from the general population gave rise to a public outcry. Two days after the Atocha bombings, demonstrations took place across Spain demanding news from the investigation, where chants such as “We want the truth before we vote” and “Who is responsible?” were heard.
Three days after the train bombings, the opposition PSOE won the elections. The subsequent investigations held by a Parliamentary Committee were characterized by bitter partisan exchanges between the different political parties, with dispute over who may have been responsible for the bombings. Aznar appeared before the Committee in November 2004 and declared his belief that the authors of the bombings were not to be found “in faraway deserts or remote mountains.” Aznar said in 2006 that he thought that the attacks were not exclusively perpetrated by Islamists.
After leaving office on 17 April 2004 he presided over the FAES think tank, which is associated with the PP. After a 2005 reform, promoted by the current Prime Minister of Spain Rodríguez Zapatero, former prime ministers were admitted into the Spanish Council of State, a position from which he later resigned.
Aznar was appointed Distinguished Scholar in the Practice of Global Leadership at Georgetown University in Washington, DC in April 2004. In this position, he teaches two seminars per semester on contemporary European politics and trans-Atlantic relationships in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. Additionally, he teaches a course on political leadership, convened by Professor Carol Lancaster, with former Polish President Kwasniewski. Aznar leads public dialogues on pressing contemporary concerns in collaboration with other members of the faculty; he was awarded a honorary degree at Universidad Francisco Marroquin.
In 2007, Aznar was appointed to the advisory board of Centaurus Capital, a London based hedge fund, an appointment which proved to be short-lived. In 2008, he was appointed to the Board of Directors of News Corporation, the media conglomerate of Rupert Murdoch. He is also member of the European Advisory Panel of The European Business Awards and the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation.
Aznar was also one of the signers and promoters of the Prague Charter.
In an interview with BBC World on 27 July 2006 he voiced doubts about “Islamists” being the sole culprits of the disputed 11 March 2004 Madrid train bombings, “You know in this moment some perpetrators of the attacks, but you do not know who imagined the attack, who is the leader of the attack, who is the idea (sic) of the attack, who established and supported means for the attacks, who defined the logistics of the attacks, who established the strategies of the attack. Nothing…I think that one part of the perpetrators are Islamists, but I think that this is not only an Islamist attack.”
During a conference in the Hudson Institute, a conservative U.S. think tank, on 23 September 2006 in Washington, DC, while referring to Pope Benedict XVI‘s comments on Islam and violence, Aznar asked himself why Muslims had not apologized for occupying Spain for 800 years as Al-Andalus. He then called the Alliance of Civilizations initiative “stupid.” His reference to apologies was a response to the demonstrations asking the Pope to apologize. One PP official clarified Aznar’s speech by saying the Prime Minister thought it is pointless to apologize for historical events.
During the 2007 Ibero-American Summit in Santiago, Chile, Aznar was criticized by Hugo Chavez, who called him “less human than snakes” and a “fascist”, claiming that Aznar disregarded Venezuela. King Juan Carlos responded to these criticisms by saying to Chavez, “Por que no te callas?” (“Why don’t you shut up?”).
In October 2008, on the occasion of a visit by the Czech President Václav Klaus to the Spanish capital, Aznar said that climate change is not a real phenomenon, but only a ‘scientifically questionable’ theory which had become the new religion, the followers of which were the ‘enemies of freedom’. Aznar’s views were in line with those of his guest Klaus, whose book “Blue Planet in Green Shackles” was being published by in Spanish by FAES, although it is not clear whether Aznar is better described as a climate change negationist or a sceptic. Aznar’s speech caused some puzzlement as his government had been a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol, and it appears that he changed his mind at some point. The Partido Popular distanced itself from the current environmental views of its former leader, classing him among a “sceptical minority” within its membership (which includes figures such as Esperanza Aguirre).
In 1977 he married Ana Botella, by whom he had three children: José María Aznar Botella, Ana Aznar Botella, born on 26 September 1981, and Alonso Aznar Botella.
Aznar is a grandfather. His daughter married at El Escorial on 5 September 2002 Alejandro Tarik Agag y Longo, by whom she had two children, Alejandro (b. Madrid, 4 June 2004) and Rodrigo (b. Madrid, 13 December 2005) Agag y Aznar.