Friday, January 29, 2010


A “cateto” is a peasant, a country bumpkin. In a recent column the distinguished journalist Francisco Rubiales asks is Spain’s Prime Minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero “un cateto”?

What has prompted his question is the appearance of the Spanish premier, who currently is also the president of the EU, at the world financial forum in Davos.

Davos is a prestigious event and Rubiales tell us that Zapatero has in the past been asked six times to attend but has always said “no”. This time he said “yes” but belatedly meaning he had to be shoehorned in to one of the secondary debates.

I have heard it said that because Zapatero does not speak English he has left his foreign minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos – who speaks the language well – to conduct the nation’s foreign affairs. Certainly at Davos Rubiales says that there were embarrassing interludes as the official translator had to interpret for the Spanish premier and then for the audience.

The inference is that Zapatero is an embarrassment to the Spanish nation by seemingly being so out of his league amidst the high and mighty of the political and financial world. In addition Rubiales argues that he has a low standing because of the abject failure of his financial policies in Spain and the dire state of the economy, unemployment and so on.

Of course as a Briton, albeit living in Spain, I bow to the view of Spaniards on whether they find Zapatero an embarrassment or not. True he is my premier also but I am used to British prime ministers speaking only English – but of course that is the key language of the UN and forums such as Davos.

So is Zapatero a “cateto”? Far be it from me to say. What I do believe is that whilst Britain’s premier, Gordon Brown, speaks English and struts the world stage, he has failed miserably to communicate with his own electorate – and it is they and not the delegates at Davos who will hand him or deny him the legitimacy of being elected Britain’s prime minister this year. A status he is yet to hold.

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