BY JACKSON BAKER | MAY 10, 2007
Though, as Spanish Ambassador to the U.S. Carlos Westendorp told Memphis Rotarians on Thursday, his country, the 2007 Memphis-in-May honoree, and the U.S. are generally simpatico, there have been some disagreements.
There was, for example, the decision by Spain to withdraw its forces from Iraq in 2005, which is when Westendorp, as a known friend of the U.S. and possible rift-healer, got his appointment. (He had been the author of the 1995 Trans-Atlantic Pact between Span and the U.S.)
But the most glaring disconnect between the two nations concerns another matter. As Westendorp put it Thursday: We like Woody Allen films better than [you do] in the United States.
On a more serious note, Westendorp made virtue out of an issue that many American politicians view as cause for alarm the increasing number of Hispanics in this country. Noted the ambassador: There are 42 million Spanish speakers in the United States" -a fact that makes the U.S. the second largest Spanish-speaking country after Mexico. That fact, he said, creates the possibility of speaking the same language and understanding each other very well.
Beyond that, both Spain and the United States have been victims of terrorism [of] Islamist extremism, Westendorp said, likening the 2004 train bombings in his country to the 9/11 airplane attacks in the United States.
In answer to a question about the leftward-leaning regime in Venezuela, Westendorp found another point of commonality. Both Spain and the U.S., he said, have an interest in arresting that oil-rich nations trend toward authoritarian behavior.