Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Convivencia in Spain

This week's American Prospect has an amazing article on the triumphs of Spain's Socialist President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. In one short year, Zapatero has given voice back to his people, expanded civil liberties, and taken back the privileges of the Catholic Church. Zapatero shows what can happen when a politician values dialogue and believes in the strength of his convictions.

Here's a short list of his accomplishments:

He has strengthened the penalty for domestic violence. Over the past five years 350 women have died due to their male partners.

Out of 16 possible cabinet posts, Zapatero appointed half to women becoming "one of just two countries in Europe to achieve gender parity at the highest level of government."

Last October Spain legalized gay marriage with the same benefits as traditional marriage and gave adoption rights to gay married couples.

After taking office he announced plans to divest the Catholic Church, a long-time bulwark of Franquismo, and end the state subsidies flowing to the "house of God" to the chi-ching of 3.5 euros last year.

Most controversially in this country, Zapatero pulled Spain's forces out of Iraq. American critics, contempuous of popular democratic sentiments, likened Zapatero to that great appeaser, Neville Chamberlain, forgetting a full 90 percent of Spain's people were against the Iraq war in the first place.

When put to referendum, 77 percent of Spanish voters approved the European Union's Constitution.

Singlehandedly, it seems Zapatero is resurrecting the progressivism and internationalism that first attracted me to Socialist politics. Derided by American critics as an aberration due to Spanish cowardice after the Madrid train bombing, Zapatero is showing that Spain has the potential to become the progressive fire burning in the heart of Europe.

May its heat radiate throughout Europe and beyond.