Jose Maria Aznar

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José María Alfredo Aznar y López (born 25 February 1953 in Madrid) served as the Prime Minister of Spain from 1996 to 2004. He is President of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation and heads the neoconservative Israel lobby group Friends of Israel.


Aznar, is the son of Manuel Aznar Acedo, a journalist and radio broadcaster, and grandson of Manuel Aznar Zubigaray, a prominent journalist during the Franco era. Both father and grandfather held governmental positions under the Fascist regime. Aznar studied law at the Complutense University of Madrid, graduating in 1975, becoming a Spanish Tax Authority inspector in 1976. In 1977 he married Ana Botella, by whom he had three children: José María, Ana and Alonso.

As a teenager, Aznar was a member of the Frente de Estudiantes Sindicalistas (FES), a student branch of the Falange Española Independiente (FEI), then a current of the fascist falange.[1]After the death of Francisco Franco Aznar joined Alianza Popular (AP), which after several electoral losses was re-founded as the Partido Popular (People's Party, or PP). In 1989 Aznar was voted by the National Executive Committee to be its new leader. On 6 June 1993 the PP again lost the general election, but did well in the 1994 European and 1995 local elections.

The PP won the 3 March 1996 Spanish general election with 37.6% of the vote, 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 on 4 May and sworn in the next day.

Aznar narrowly escaped assassination on 19 April 1995, shortly before the election, in an ETA bombing.

Aznar's terms

First term (1996–2000)

The Aznar Government maintained the commitment of the previous government to join the European Union's single currency. In the summer of 1996 it announced a decision to freeze the wages of civil servants in the following year in the face of a series of union-led demonstrations that culminated in protest marches by tens of thousands of Spaniards throughout the nation on 11 December.

Aznar also announced the sale early in 1997 of the nation's remaining minority stake in the Telefónica telecommunications company and the petroleum group Repsol YPF. These golden shares in Telefonica and Repsol YPF, as well as in Endesa, Banco Bilbao Vizcaya 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.

Second term (2000–2004)

Aznar in his second term actively supported George W. Bush's War on Terror and the invasion of Iraq despite widespread public disapproval. Aznar met with Bush in a private meeting before the 2003 invasion of Iraq to discuss developments in the UN Security Council, a transcript of which was leaked by El País'.[2]He defended his support for the war on the basis of secret intelligence allegedly containing evidence of the Iraqi government's nuclear proliferation. He has since tried to exonerate himself by claiming in a conference in Madrid, on the 8 February 2007 that when he believed there were WMDs no one could disprove their existence.[3][4][5]The majority of the Spanish population, including some PP members, were against the war.

In January 2004 Aznar called a general election and designated his successor as candidate, Mariano Rajoy. Despite political tensions, polls suggested that the Popular Party was set to win a third consecutive election.

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 fingered Basque separatists ETA as the possible perpetrators,[6]. The government continued to place partial blame on ETA even after evidence of Islamist involvement had emerged, even going so far as having the Minister of Foreign Affairs Ana Palacio instruct all Spanish diplomats to place the blame on ETA at every opportunity.[7][8]This led to public outcry and demonstrations two days after the bombings demanding news from the investigation as to who was responsible.[9]

Three days after the train bombings, the opposition PSOE won the elections. In his subsequent testimony to the investigations held by a Parliamentary Committee in November 2004 Aznar insisted that the authors of the bombings were not to be found "in faraway deserts or remote mountains."[10]a belief he reiterated in an interview with BBC World on 27 July 2006. He voiced doubts about "Islamists" being the sole culprits of the bombings.[11]

After 2004

After leaving office on 17 April 2004 he presided over the FAES, a think tank associated with the PP. He was also appointed Distinguished Scholar in the Practice of Global Leadership at Georgetown University in Washington, DC in the same month. 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 joined the board of Endesa,which he privatised while in power.[12] In 2007, Aznar was appointed to the advisory board of Centaurus Capital, a London based hedge fund.[13]. In 2008, he was appointed to the Board of Directors of News Corporation, the media conglomerate of Rupert Murdoch.[14] Aznar was also one of the signatories and promoters of the Prague Charter.


Aznar's government posthumously granted a medal of Civil Merit to Melitón Manzanas, the head of the secret police in San Sebastián and the first high-profile member of the Francoist government killed by ETA in 1968. He was widely considered a torturer, and Amnesty International condemned the awarding.[15]. After the 2004 elections it was also revealed that Aznar and his government secretly channeled public funds to a US legal firm to lobby for the award of the Congressional Gold Medal on Aznar. The contract consisted in a first payment of $700,000 for the first seven months, followed by $100,000 monthly payments until it reached the sum of $2 million.[16]

During a conference at the neoconservative Hudson Institute on 23 September 2006 in Washington, DC, while referring to Pope Benedict XVI's controversial comments on Islam and violence, Aznar questioned why Muslims had not apologized for occupying Spain for 800 years. He then called "stupid" the Alliance of Civilizations, an initiative proposed by his successor José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and co-sponsored by co-sponsored by the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the 59th General Assembly of UN in 2005.[17][18]

In October 2008, on the occasion of a visit by the Czech President Vaclav 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’.[19]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. This despite the fact that Aznar's government had been a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol; and his party subsequently distanced itself from his views.[20]



  • Libertad y solidaridad (1991)
  • La España en que yo creo (1995)
  • España: la segunda transición (1995)
  • Ocho años de Gobierno (2004)
  • Retratos y perfiles: de Fraga a Bush (2005)
  • Cartas a un joven español (2007)



  1. A letter written by Jose María Aznar in 1969 to the editor of a falangist journal,
  2. Juan Cole, Bush-Aznar Transcript: The War Crime of the Century, Informed Comment, 28 September 2007
  3. Aznar sabe "ahora" que no había armas de destrucción masiva en Irak, 20 Minutos
  4. ex presidente tarda cuatro años en reconocer la verdad sobre la guerra de Iraq, Google Video
  5. Aznar takes advantage of an act in Madrid with PP loyals to rectify his 2003 accusations about the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, European Social Survey, accessdate=2008-01-03
  6. Scores die in Madrid bomb carnage, BBC News
  7. Exteriores pidió a todas las embajadas que defendieran la autoría de ETA, Cadena Ser
  8. Palacio ordenó a embajadores decir que ETA cometió los atentados, Barcelona Independent Media Center
  9. Miles de personas exigen en las calles españolas que se les diga la verdad antes de votar, El Pais
  10. Paloma D. Sotero and Elena Mengual, Aznar ataca al Gobierno y pide que se 'investigue la verdad', El Mundo
  11. Entrevista BBC Aznar, 24-07-2006 (Parte II de 3), BBC World
  12. 'I am the miracle worker',, 23 May 2013.
  13. James Mackintosh, Centaurus hires high-profile advisers, Financial Times
  14. Dan Milmo, Former Spanish PM to join Murdoch board|format, The Guardian Business
  15. No deben tolerarse las recompensas a torturadores(They should not tolerate rewards to torturers, Amnesty International, 30 January 2001
  16. Aznar pagó con dinero público a un "lobby" de Washington para conseguir la medalla del Congreso de EEUU (Cadena SER)
  17. Aznar: "Muslims should apologize for occupying Spain for 800 years", YouTube, accessdate=2008-01-03
  18. se pregunta por qué los musulmanes no se disculpan 'por haber ocupado España ocho siglos', El Mundo,
  19. [1]
  20. [[2]] El País
  21. The Annual Herzliya Conference Series: on the Balance of Israel's National Security (2008) Conference Conclusions. Accessed 12th August 2008
  22. The Club of Madrid
  23. Global Leadership Foundation