Spain's Gonzalez: 'Our brand of socialism is different'
Washington — Like the small gold links that hold his blue cuffs, Spain's young socialist prime minister, with a mixture of refreshing charm and traditional assurance, has been neatly gripping his American audiences.
From the White House to Capitol Hill to Wall Street, Felipe Gonzalez this week has deftly presented himself as an emerging voice within the Western alliance - someone who can act as a moderating bridge to help bring solutions to Latin America and a natural leader in his country's short trip from dictatorship to democracy.
Meeting informally with reporters over omelets and grilled tomatoes, Mr. Gonzalez said he was happy to forego protocol because it reminded him of the regime under which he had lived for most of his life. But he also sought to dispel American concerns about the left-leaning position of Spanish government today.
''For me, socialism is very simple,'' he said through an interpreter. ''It's the strengthening of democracy.''
''Therefore, beyond some border to the east,'' he added, referring to the Soviet-dominated countries of Europe, ''there is no socialist country. Maybe I'm a democratic and heterodox socialist. I don't believe in the dogma of nationalization.''
This will be his essential theme today as he meets with business and civic leaders in New York, seeking to convince them that they would find it profitable to invest in a stable Spain whose brand of socialism comports with capitalism. The necktie the young vice-president of the Socialist International wore Wednesday was a conservative blue and white with only a single subdued red stripe.
From the Spanish point of view, Spain's balance of trade with the United States has worsened szo/ he end of the Franco regime eight years ago. Gonzalez is pleased that President Reagan this week agreed to help support a new natural gas pipeline from North Africa through Spain to Western Europe. But he also recognizes the problems in pushing the economic issue too hard at this time.
''I don't want to oversimplify matters,'' he said. ''I know that there is an economic crisis in Europe and the United States, and this makes things difficult.''
The prime minister also noted how ''very difficult it is to make the public in Spain understand this,'' especially in light of his country's continued exclusion from the European Community. The twin influences of public opinion and practical politics are also behind Gonzalez's position on full integration of Spain into NATO.
Before last year's national election, his party opposed Spain's joining NATO, and recent polls show more than two-thirds of Spaniards holding this view today. But the Socialist government says it does not want to do anything that would undercut the Western alliance, and the prime minister has postponed indefinitely the promised referendum on the question.
''From the very beginning, we've always said that we accept our share of the responsibility in the defense of the West,'' he told reporters. While declining to use the word ''endorse'' to describe his position on NATO's planned deployment of new intermediate-range nuclear missiles, he says he understands why deployment may be necessary.
The meeting with reporters inevitably focused on the problems in Central America. Prime Minister Gonzalez recently called US actions there ''negative.'' But in Washington he offered gentle advice rather than criticism.
He pronounced himself ''impressed'' with Mr. Reagan's grasp of the issue in the broader context of where the Americas are headed. But he also emphasized the need for more equitable distribution of Latin America's growing wealth, said any long-term solution must recognize ''the status of Cuba in the region,'' and called for better relations between the US and Nicaragua.
He supports the efforts of the Contadora group of Latin American nations (Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, and Panama) to find a path to peace. And he smiled when he pointed out that his conservative European colleagues Margaret Thatcher and Helmut Kohl do, too. As he said over breakfast: ''I'm a socialist who doesn't like distant revolutions.''