“What about me, what?”

Yesterday Yoli Cuello, an interviewer for Radio Caracol Miami, interviewed Republican presidential candidate John McCain (I learned about it from TPM). The interview was rebroadcast by Cadena Ser in Spain, where it made a stir, because in the interview McCain either failed to recognize the name of the Spanish president or implied that Zapatero was hostile to America. The faux pas instantly became news in the Spanish newspaper El País and elsewhere.

This morning, Cadena Ser released the original, undubbed version of the interview, which was conducted in English. A partial transcript:

Yoli Cuello, Radio Caracol Miami: Let’s start with Venezuela. What do you think you should do with Venezuela if you’re elected President?

McCain: I think Venezuela is a compelling argument for energy independence. I would not sit down with President Hugo Chavez, as Senator Obama said that he would do without precondition, and I would do everything in my power to support democracy and freedom and human rights in Venezuela. As we know, Hugo Chavez is moving towards autocracy in Venezuela and depriving people of their democratic rights.

Do you think the United States should ignore the comments that Hugo Chavez made every time he talk about the United States?

I think we should not dignify Hugo Chavez in any way and we should become independent of foreign oil and we should advocate strongly for the preservation of democracy in Venezuela.

What do you think about Bolivia, the situation that is going on right now there?

I think it’s very similar with Morales as it is with Chavez. They are very similar. And I would basically say the same thing. Our advocacy for democracy and human rights throughout the region means we should be paying a lot more attention to the region. We should be supporting President Uribe in Columbia, we should be in support of free trade agreements, and Senator Obama has opposed the free trade agreements. I support them. It would be good for the economies and good for democracy.

Many people have the feeling, Senator, that Latin America is ignored in Washington. If you’re elected president, what do you do to no forget Latin America?

Pay more attention. I know the issues, I know the leaders. Sen. Obama has never been south of the border in his entire life. I understand, and will pay much more attention to the region.

Since we are here in Miami, let’s talk about Cuba. . . .

I think that Raul Castro has just shown by refusing humanitarian assistance to his people, that he cares more about power than his people, and I think it’s very disappointing that he has done so and we have to maintain our advocacy of free elections, human rights organizations functioning and emptying the prisons of political prisoners.

Senator, finally, let’s talk about Spain. If you’re elected President, would you be willing to invite President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero to the White House to meet with you?

I would be willing to meet with those leaders who [are] our friends and want to work with us in a cooperative fashion. And by the way, President Calderón of Mexico is fighting a very, very tough fight in Mexico against the drug cartels. I’m glad we’re now working in cooperation with the Mexican government on the Mérida plan, and I intend to move forward with relations and invite as many of those leaders as I can to the White House.

Would that invitation be extended to the Zapatero government, to the president itself?

I don’t, honestly, I’d have to look at the relations and the situations and the priorities, but I can assure you, I will establish closer relations with our friends and I will stand up to those who want to do harm to the United States of America. I know how to do both.

So you have to wait and see if he’s willing to meet with you—would you be able to do it, in the White House?

All I can tell you, I have a clear record of working with leaders in the hemisphere that are friends with us and standing up to those who are not, and that’s judged on the basis of the importance of our relationship with Latin America and the entire region.

Okay, what about Europe. I’m talking about the president of Spain.

What about me, what?

Are you willing to meet with him if you’re elected President?

I’m willing to meet with any leader who is dedicated to the same principles and philosophy of human rights democracy and freedom, and I will stand up to those that do not.

Finally, senator, can you say, um, dum, dum, I forgot the word. Say hello to the listeners of Caracol radio.

Thank you to the listeners and thank you all for being involved in the election, which is one of the most important elections in history. . . .