Calling for the expansion of freedom and democracy across the world, former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar presented his views of the power of democratic governments to eclipse dictatorships in an address yesterday in the ICC Auditorium.

Speaking to a capacity crowd of students and faculty, Aznar explained freedom’s inherent virtues and emphasized a necessity to spread freedom to other nations, echoing recent themes asserted by President Bush in his inaugural address.

“I believe in freedom and in extending freedom throughout the world. I believe it is within our climate of freedom . that the dignity of the individual is promoted,” he said. “I am convinced that expanding the free world can only have favorable consequences for us all.”

Aznar lauded the apparent success of Iraq’s historic multi-party election that took place Sunday, crediting the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and overthrow of former dictator Saddam Hussein with the election’s success.

“People in Iraq gave us an important lesson yesterday. They know what they stand for, what they will die for. It is freedom,” he said.

Under the Popular Party government led by Aznar until March 2004, Spain was a prominent ally of the United States which sometimes alienated its European neighbors with its strong backing of the Iraqi war.

Aznar expressed his optimism for an eventual victory against terrorists, speaking about the violent insurgency that has inflicted numerous Allied and Iraqi military and civilian casualties.

“[As to] whether we can win the war against terrorists who have made Iraq their own battleground . I am convinced the war can be won. I myself have fought against terrorism, and I have faith in the strength in democracy. With considerable effort, victory is possible,” he said, referring to the April 1995 incident in which he survived a direct attack on his armored limousine. The Basque separatist group ETA claimed responsibility for the assassination attempt.

The former political leader expounded on the future of democracy in the Middle East, hailing the new Iraqi constitution as an exemplary model for the entire region.

“I believe important steps are being taken now to ensure success in Iraq . the new constitution doesn’t discriminate on gender, race, and religious belief. [There are] separation of powers and a freedom of faith. Anyone who would think such a thing is possible in Iraq years ago would be dismissed,” Aznar said.

Aznar referenced former Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, who ruled Spain under an authoritarian government until his death in 1975.

“The [free] values that characterize our society have not always shown through . I come from a country that has a relatively young democracy,” he said.

Aznar credited Spain’s economic transformation to political reform and a democratic government, resonating with one of his lecture’s main themes. Aznar repeatedly emphasized the positive economic results of a nation’s transition to democracy.

“[Democracy] is the best political system when it comes to fighting poverty . [I]t offers a much greater prospect for development than an authoritarian government,” he said, citing studies by international affairs scholars that demonstrated a correlation between economic progress and democratic states.

“Supporting democracy in developing governments is the right thing to do. It helps prosperity and peace,” he said.

Aznar ended the lecture by contending that democracy serves to govern the world in security and stability.

“Democratic states are not inclined to fight against their allies . they fight against common enemies as a last resort,” he said. “War between Spain and France, the United States and Germany, appears absurd today. The western alliance is very strong.”

Several members of the audience posed questions, ranging from terrorism to the upcoming Spanish vote on the European Union constitution. Defending his government in the wake of the March 11, 2004 terrorist attacks on Madrid commuter trains, Aznar responded to criticism from an audience member.

“What government has the ability to prevent everything? If you know a government with this capacity, I [would be] very happy to know it. Government is not perfect. The police, army, and intelligence service are not perfect,” he said.

Aznar answered a similar question about his government’s firm stance against Saddam Hussein.

“I agree with peace, but when you have to make a decision to defend democracy . this decision is indispensable,” he said.

This lecture was the third delivered by Aznar at Georgetown after he became the university’s Distinguished Scholar in the Practice of Global Leadership. Aznar is scheduled to present a final lecture in early April.

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