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View from Madrid: Viva Obama

Admiration for Barack Obama’s charisma and unprecedented enthusiasm at this historical moment of seeing an African-American President of the United States brought rare agreement among political analysts and columnists commenting in Spanish media on today’s inauguration. “Images move the world today and the icon of a black family in the White House contains so much positive energy that the history of humanity will never be able to escape it,” wrote novelist Manuel Vicent in El País.

Miguel Deya, a 69-year-old lawyer elaborated when he told GlobalPost that “his being black will be a confidence booster across the world for less fortunate people.”

“At Last” read the headline spanning the front page of left-leaning daily Público as it chimed in with the chorus of optimism surrounding the departure of George Bush and the arrival of Barack Obama. “Obama has already gained some ground, not only for his own merits, the way he manages citizens’ emotions, but also for succeeding George Bush,” said Cristina de la Hoz from the conservative daily ABC during a Telecinco TV debate.

“At least we’ll get along better with him than with Bush,” 51-year-old state employee Luisa Cabrera García told Global Post. “Our Prime Minister Zapatero had a sour relation with Bush, but Obama seems to be much more favorable towards Spain.”

Relations between Mr. Zapatero and George Bush have been non-existent since the Spanish prime minister decided to pull Spanish troops out of Iraq. The prospects of a better rapport with the new U.S. president are encouraging, as is the possibility of Spain’s acting as a mediator to facilitate relations between the United States and Latin America, particularly with Cuba.

In a radio interview yesterday Spain Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero said, “The world is hoping Obama will help solve its problems, and Spain is going to help Obama help everyone.”

While opinion-makers and folks we spoke to in Madrid concur that Mr. Obama’s first priority is the U.S. economy, anticipation is high on what his international relations policies and style will be. Alberto Pozas, director of Interviú magazine, ventured in a TVE debate, “Obama will put an end to the thumbs up-thumbs down unilateral decision making style of a Roman emperor and count on the help of friendly countries.”

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