Had it not been for the 1982 Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands, and the war that followed, Spain would have achieved through negotiations an 'irreversible solution' to the Gibraltar dispute with Great Britain, revealed Spanish diplomat, scholar and academic Jose Cuenca in his recently launched book, “From Adolfo Suarez to Gorbachev; an ambassador's testimonies and shared secrets”.
Ambassador Cuenca who joined the Spanish diplomatic service in the early sixties admits to have lived very exciting moments in his long career such as first hand witness of Spain's transition from dictatorship to democracy and perestroika in the former Soviet Union, plus negotiations for the liberation of 38 Spanish fishermen that had been captured by the Polisario Liberation Front in north Africa.
But the book also reveals a little-known fact referred to talks with Britain in 1982, regarding the future of Gibraltar when Cuenca was head of the Europe and Atlantic Affairs Desk and which he describes as the non born Sintra statement
We were supposed to meet at Sintra on Saturday 3 April 1982, said ambassador Cuenca. ”The day before, 2 April 1982 we had the document to be signed by both sides (Spain and UK) ready, and we had both agreed to implement a mechanism, an irreversible dynamics to solve the Gibraltar conflict, not immediately, but yes to get moving that solution's dynamics”.
However on Friday, 2 April 1982, the Spanish ambassador in New York (UN) was on the phone with the following message for Cuenca: ”Pepe, the invasion of Malvinas has started; it was eleven in the morning, there was a cabinet meeting and I called the council and reported: 'Minister (Pérez Llorca) we have just received a phone call from New York, the (Argentine) invasion of the Malvinas Islands has started therefore tomorrow there will be no meeting at Sintra, no agreement, no document, no nothing...
That is what happened, in international affairs you also have to be lucky. When we had everything ready, well all this happened, and what followed?. Foreign Secretary Lord Carrington was immediately sacked, the Malvinas issue completely absorbed the attention of Mrs. Thatcher and the British government, and not a word again about Gibraltar, said Cuenca who is also a member of the Spanish Royal Academy of Jurisprudence and Legislation.
Obviously I'm not so naive as to think that Mrs. Thatcher was going to hand us Gibraltar back the following day, but yes I'm convinced that the document (the Sintra declaration) was going to start an irreversible process for an irreversible solution to the dispute, of this I'm fully convinced Cuenca regretfully recalls.
As to the essence of the book, ambassador Cuenca recalls his experiences with the opening and transition periods to democracy both in Spain and Russia, and his admiration for the two leaders that commanded those processes.
It is true that Gorbachev was also very much interested in Spain's transition even when former president Felipe González always insisted they were entirely different moves for historic, geographic and economic reasons, and he repeatedly insisted to the former communist president not to follow the Spanish experience, points out Cuenca.
However as the title of his book indicates both Adolfo Suarez and Gorbachov were great leaders, great men who helped change their countries for the best, and I had the honor of being very close to them, even sharing secrets of the time”.
Ambassador Cuenca described his friendship with Suarez as very close and also a good friend of Gorbachev since he was ambassador in Moscow (1986/1992) at those critical moments.
You have been the only western ambassador that has outlived my five years of the ascension, crisis and end of perestroika, Gorbachev is quoted in the book as telling the Spanish ambassador.
And as to Suarez, the man who led Spain from Franco's dictatorship to democracy and the western world, Cuenca revealed that in 2001 the former president called him to admit he was suffering irreversible brain damage and pleaded me to start working on the book as soon as possible, otherwise he would be unable to help me with testimonies of the transition experience.