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Víctor Pou, Professor, IESE, University of Navarra

Zapatero and the prophet Daniel

Tue, 23 Mar 2010 09:03:31 +0000 Published in La Vanguardia (Barcelona)

After quoting texts from Deuteronomy - the biblical book of the Old Testament - in his speech pronounced on the day of prayer in Washington before Obama, Zapatero could be advised to persevere in his biblical readings and, for example, to pay special attention to what is said about the prophet Daniel during his captivity in Babylon.

While King Balthasar and his court were feasting and ungodly drinking wine from the precious vessels they had taken from the temple in Jerusalem, a man's fingers appeared writing on the palace walls the following three mysterious words in letters of fire: Mane, Thecel, Phares. It is said that none of King Balthasar's wise men could decipher them. Only the prophet Daniel was able to do so. According to Daniel, Manes meant "numbered", meaning that the days of Balthazar's reign were numbered. Thecel meant "heavy": King Balthasar had been examined by his people and had not given the weight that should be required of a good monarch. Phares meant "divided," meaning that Balthasar's kingdom was to be quickly dismembered. Since then, those three terrible words have been used to allude to a near, fatal and disastrous end that is foreseen for something. Daniel was absolutely right in his prophecy. After a short time, the Persian troops of Cyrus entered and put an end to the Babylonian reign of Balthasar.

Zapatero would do well to apply to himself the shrewd interpretation of the prophet Daniel, particularly with regard to the Spanish economic crisis. The days of his second legislature are numbered, will he use them correctly to make amends for past mistakes? Public opinion reproves his management with greater severity with each passing day, to the point of reaching record levels of lack of credibility as the country's first president in Spanish democracy. Will he be able to turn this seemingly unstoppable trend around? The division within his own party on the measures to be adopted to face the crisis is growing, will he be able to avoid such an internal confrontation? If he is able to rectify a trajectory that apparently leads to disaster, his biblical initiation as a special guest on the day of prayer will not be misused at all.