Several Democratic U.S. Senators, including influential Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ), criticized Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s administration for its partnerships with authoritarian regimes.
At a hearing to consider the nomination of Julissa Reynoso as Washington’s new ambassador to Spain and Andorra, the lawmakers pressed the nominee to influence the Spanish government on issues related to Latin America.
In addition to Menendez, fellow Democrat Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) was particularly upset by the refusal of the Sanchez administration to sign the U.S. statement against the dictatorship in Cuba during the July protests on the island. Similarly, Tim Kaine (D-VA), also a Democrat, questioned the nominee about the role Spain should play in Latin America.
“I am deeply concerned that Spain is adopting views that are outside the democracy and human rights provisions that one would expect to see in a NATO ally,” Menendez said.
“It would appear that the Spanish,” he added, “are more concerned about their hotels and investments (in Cuba) than about democracy and human rights.
Menendez, of Cuban origin, often shares strategy with GOP Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) when it comes to Cuba and other leftist-dominated Latin American countries.
“The Spanish have not been particularly helpful, specifically in the Western Hemisphere. I’m sure (Spain) would not like us to act the way they act with us, if it were in their sphere of the world,” Menendez said.
The legislator also said he was concerned “about the role that Spain is playing in Venezuela.”
“They seem to be contrary to where we are in our own hemisphere,” he said.
In her response, Reynoso, of Dominican origin, said she was “quite familiar with Spain’s mediocre policy toward some of these countries, mainly Cuba and Venezuela, and Nicaragua, I should add as well.”
Reynoso, who was ambassador to Uruguay during the Barack Obama administration, said that as ambassador in Madrid she will have as her “objective” that Spain be “much more vocal” regarding these countries, “given its important influence and interests, mainly in Cuba.”
“Spain can do much more,” she added.