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Profile: Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero at a polling station with his wife, Sonsoles Espinosa, 9 March 2008
Mr Zapatero's wife (left) is opera singer Sonsoles Espinosa
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero won a second term in office in March 2008, four years after his surprise victory in the wake of commuter train bombings in Madrid.

When he came to office in March 2004 it was largely because of voter anger over the conservative government's insistence that armed separatist group Eta was behind the blasts, despite the evidence pointing to Islamist extremists.

The attacks, which killed 191 people three days before the election, had all the hallmarks of extremists angered by Spain's role in the Iraq war.

The war was unpopular with the voters and once in office Mr Zapatero moved quickly to bring Spanish troops home.

His second election victory was seen as an endorsement of the social reforms he put in place during his first term.

He legalised gay marriage, brought in fast-track divorces and laws to promote gender equality and tackle domestic violence. He also introduced an amnesty for undocumented workers.

Peace attempt

During his first term Mr Zapatero faced criticism for holding high-level talks with Eta in an attempt to seek a negotiated end to violence - and for granting more power to the northern-eastern region of Catalonia.

His attempts at peace failed. Eta carried out a bomb attack in a car park at Madrid's airport in December 2006, formally ending a 15-month ceasefire in June. Since then, Mr Zapatero has taken a harder line against the group.

Born in August 1960, Mr Zapatero is grandson of a Republican army officer shot during the civil war.

Before his election in 2004, Mr Zapatero had never held ministerial office, despite being in politics for years and rising quickly through the party ranks.

He joined the Socialist Party (PSOE) as a teenager in 1979 and became Spain's youngest MP in 1986, representing the province of Leon where he grew up.

The party was then in power, and united behind the charismatic Felipe Gonzalez. But by the time Mr Zapatero became PSOE leader in 2000, it was in disarray and divided.

The conservative Popular Party (PP) had just won re-election, and the socialists were still tainted by the corruption scandals and sky-high unemployment that had characterised Spain under their rule.

Some observers, even from within his own party, had questioned whether their young, affable leader could change the party's fortunes.

Mr Zapatero is married to an opera singer, the soprano Sonsoles Espinosa. They have two daughters. He is said to enjoy playing basketball with friends and is a fan of the Barcelona football club.



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