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Spanish-American trade tensions: Spain warns Trump that trade hostilities could endanger greater military cooperation | International

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Spain views its bilateral relations with the United States as a whole, not as a set of separate areas where it is possible to have a good relationship in one (defense, for instance) and an openly hostile attitude in another (trade).

This was the message conveyed on Thursday by Spain’s foreign and defense ministers, Arancha González Laya and Margarita Robles, respectively, to US ambassador Duke Buchan. Washington should not expect military cooperation to increase while simultaneously imposing new tariffs and issuing threats to Spanish businesses, said Spanish government sources.

The Foreign Ministry portrayed the meeting as an initial contact between the new head of Spanish diplomacy and the Trump administration’s representative in Madrid. The encounter took place 48 hours before González Laya was scheduled to have a telephone conversation with US State Secretary Mike Pompeo.

For the first time, military cooperation was framed as one more element of US-Spanish relations, together with political, economic and cultural collaboration

But the unusual format of the meeting – two ministers going to see an ambassador – reveals a goal that goes beyond diplomatic formalities. For the first time, military cooperation was framed as one more element of US-Spanish relations, together with political, economic and cultural collaboration.

This attitude signals a change in Spain’s position: until now, the US military presence in the country had been “encapsulated” and treated as a separate issue, even at times when relations were cooler, such as the period when former US president George W. Bush and former Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero were in power.

In recent months, the Spanish government has authorized the US to replace four missile destroyers at its Navy base in Rota (Cádiz) with more modern vessels. The move also involves increasing the US presence at the base with a new helicopter maritime strike squadron. And the Spanish government has been sounded out about the possibility of deploying six destroyers in Rota instead of four, which means increasing its naval force by 50% and adding 600 sailors.

Spain views the agricultural tariffs, imposed in retaliation over European subsidies to the aviation giant Airbus, as unfair

While these requests are being made, the Trump administration is also making decisions that the Spanish government views as unfriendly. The most serious one of all was the recent introduction of 25% tariffs on several agricultural products, including olive oil, wine and cheese. Spanish exports of these products represented over €800 million a year.

Spain views these sanctions, imposed in retaliation over European subsidies to the aviation giant Airbus, as unfair. The tariffs have added to the financial troubles of Spain’s agricultural sector, which has been staging protests for weeks. But it wasn’t the first time: under pressure from California growers, in 2018 the US government slapped a tariff of nearly 35% on Spanish black olives, forcing Spanish exporters to take their battle to the US courts.

Another recent decision by the US State Department is viewed as even more hostile: the vice-chairman and CEO of the Meliá hotel chain, Gabriel Escarrer, has been barred from entering US territory. The move also affects his children and close relatives, and it is derived from Title IV of the Helms-Burton Act, which allows the secretary of state to deny entry to individuals who “traffic” in property that was confiscated from US nationals by the Cuban government from 1959 onwards.

The vice-chairman and CEO of the Meliá hotel chain, Gabriel Escarrer. has been barred from entering US territory

Several Spanish companies with a presence in Cuba have already been threatened or faced with legal problems under Title III, which allows US nationals to bring suits against anyone deemed to be “trafficking” with expropriated assets. But while these cases can be appealed in court, the decision to bar an individual from entering the country is discretionary and cannot be contested. “Not even North Korea does this sort of thing,” said one Spanish diplomat.

On Wednesday, the Trump administration further warned that it is considering sanctions against foreign companies operating in Venezuela as a way to put pressure on President Nicolás Maduro. The Spanish oil company Repsol was specifically named along with Russia’s Rosneft.

The decision to put military and trade relations on the same level follows Trump’s own logic: the US president has warned that NATO allies that fail to contribute 2% of their gross domestic product to defense could ultimately pay in the form of tariffs.

On Wednesday, the Spanish foreign minister told NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels that Spain is a “solid and reliable” ally. González Laya is planning to travel to Washington DC shortly, although Madrid is aware that the Trump administration is currently focusing on the re-election effort.

Despite the differences, the US-Spain relation is considered strategic. “For multiple reasons, political, economic and security-related, we consider it a priority to maintain and expand our relations with the United States of America,” said King Felipe VI in a speech to the diplomatic corps at the Royal Palace, just hours after the ministers had met with the US ambassador.

English version by Susana Urra.

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Canadian police investigating Manitoba residential school abuse claims | Indigenous child graves

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A branch of Canada’s federal police force says it has spent the last decade conducting a “large-scale investigation” into allegations of sexual abuse at a former residential school.

On Tuesday, the Manitoba Royal Canadian Mounted Police said it launched a criminal investigation in 2011, investigating claims that students were assaulted during their time at the Fort Alexander residential school.

The rare disclosure of an ongoing investigation was prompted by questions from the Winnipeg Free Press newspaper.

“Due to the many people affected by this investigation as well as the larger social implications, it was determined to be in the public interest to provide as much information on the ongoing investigation as we can,” the RCMP said in its news release.

At least 150,000 Indigenous children were forced to attend residential schools across the country, which were funded by the federal government and run by churches as part of the campaign to strip the youth of their cultural identity.

The Fort Alexander residential school, 125km (78 miles) north-east of Winnipeg, opened in 1905. Children often tried to run away from the institution, according to the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre. In 1928, two boys drowned while trying to escape by boat.

It was closed by the federal government in 1970. Elders have long spoken about abuse within the institution, including testifying at the country’s truth and reconciliation commission.

More than 80 RCMP officers have been involved in the investigation so far, which has involved speaking to more than 700 people across North America.

Investigators travelled to Ottawa to scour archival records from the school, as well as the province of Manitoba’s records. They also canvassed residents in the area where the school was located, on the grounds of the Sagkeeng First Nation.

Police obtained 75 witness and victim statements.

Grand chiefs of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Southern Chiefs’ Organization have worked closely with police on the investigation, as have the chief and council of the Sagkeeng First Nation.

In addition to testimony of abuse, survivors have long said children went missing or died while attending the school.

Last week, teams searched the grounds of Sagkeeng First Nation using a drone and ground-penetrating radar technology to look for human remains.

To date, more than 1,300 unmarked graves have been discovered on the grounds of former schools, prompting a national reckoning over Canada’s colonial past.

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EU urges Lebanon to form government ‘without delay’

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The EU called on Tuesday on Lebanon political leaders to form a government without delay, following the nomination of businessman Najib Mikati as prime minister. “It is now of crucial importance that a credible and accountable government is formed in Lebanon without delay, one that is able to address the severe economic and social crises the country is facing,” the EU said in a statement.

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Boeing With 165 People On Board Safely Lands in Simferopol After Reporting Engine Problems

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MOSCOW (Sputnik) – A Boeing aircraft with 165 people on board is preparing for an emergency landing at Simferopol airport due to technical problems with its engine, an emergency services spokesperson said.

“A Boeing is preparing for an emergency landing in Simferopol, on board of which, according to preliminary information, there are 165 passengers,” the spokesperson said.

The aircraft, which performs a flight from Yakutia to Crimea, had vibration in one of the engines, he added.

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