Arm Around the Waist

Arms around each other’s waists, like two good friends posing together, Secretary general of political party Podem, Pablo Iglesias, and the U.S. ambassador in Madrid, James Costos, appeared in photographs. They posed for the camera at the U.S. embassy in front of two flags, the Spanish flag and the stars and stripes, the meeting called at the express invitation of the diplomat, who was very interested to hear about the projects of a political group for which the poll results auger definite success in the forthcoming elections. What has come out is that the dialogue developed cordially, and during the course of the discussion topics covered included possible remedies to the difficult economic situation in Spain, the disadvantages of severe austerity measures, Venezuela and Greece, a country in difficult circumstances to which President Obama wants to give a reasonable way out that does not offend a country already severely affected by the crisis.

In addition to this — in these diplomatic discussions there are always nonpolitical topics —there was talk about movies and about “Game of Thrones,” a television series of which Iglesias is a great fan. The news of the meeting was greeted with a certain typographical caution in the media and in some papers it was limited to one column, discreetly placed, with a photograph the size of a postage stamp in which it was almost necessary to use a magnifying glass to identify the protagonists. Any journalist with a bit of experience knows that when an event takes us by surprise and we don’t know what to do, the normal thing is to report it in a single column — just enough to meet the obligation to report the item and to gain some time before the situation becomes clear.

I understand that this attitude of friendly intrigue between the U.S. ambassador and the leader of a party which the government and the pro-government media define as radical Bolivian-style left must have surprised many people, even in matters of protocol or other formal aspects of the meeting. As far as I can remember, we have to date never seen a photograph of a U.S. ambassador with his arm around the waist of a Spanish political leader. A large number of photographs from the archives show well-dressed and well-groomed individuals shaking hands with their heads slightly tilted and with a smile of satisfaction. Since its appearance on the Spanish political scene, Podem has been the object of close scrutiny by much of the media and has had all sorts of accusations levelled against it: From alleged financing by Venezuela and by the Islamic Republic of Iran to an alleged plan to convert the Spanish parliamentary monarchy to a Bolivian-style socialist republic. Those aims, of course, don’t resonate with that photograph at the side of a diplomatic representative of a country that has been accused by Venezuela of participating in an attempted coup — with the supposed complicity of President Rajoy by the way — against the government of Caracas. And along the same lines of this conspiracy-discourse we should suspect that Pablo Iglesias is, in reality, a CIA agent. I suppose it will not be long before we hear this.

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