Diplomatic row as Spain's king tells Chávez to "shut up"

12th November 2007, Comments 0 comments

12 November 2007, SANTIAGO - Flaring tensions and flayed nerves marked the closing session of the 17th Iberoamerican Summit in Santiago in Chile on Saturday, where a visibly furious King Juan Carlos of Spain told Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez to "shut up."

12 November 2007

SANTIAGO - Flaring tensions and flayed nerves marked the closing session of the 17th Iberoamerican Summit in Santiago in Chile on Saturday, where a visibly furious King Juan Carlos of Spain told Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez to "shut up."

The unprecedented public exchange between two heads of state occurred as Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero responded to Chávez's speech earlier in the day in which he had accused former conservative Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar of being a "fascist."

"A snake is more human than a fascist or a racist. A tiger is more human than a fascist or a racist," Chávez had argued after claiming that Aznar, while prime minister in 2002, had tried to talk him into breaking off ties with Cuba. Chávez had previously accused Aznar's Popular Party government of supporting a failed attempt to overthrow him.

As Zapatero tried to respond to the allegations in his own allotted time, the left-wing Venezuelan leader repeatedly interrupted and continued to speak even though his microphone was cut off. After Zapatero's futile attempts to continue with his speech, the king, seated next to Zapatero and visibly irate, intervened, gesturing angrily toward Chávez and asking "Why don't you shut up?"

chilean President Michelle Bachelet, who was chairing the meeting, then intervened and put a stop to the exchange.

When Zapatero resumed his speech and was able to respond to the accusations against Aznar, he turned to Chávez and demanded respect. "You may object to an idea, you may criticize an idea but there is no need to resort to insults," the Spanish prime minister said. "[Former prime minister] Aznar was democratically elected by the Spanish people and was a legitimate representative of the Spanish people," he noted.

The king stormed out of the room after Zapatero finished speaking in anger at Chávez's behavior, although he returned minutes later for the closing ceremony at the request of Bachelet.

Speaking later on Saturday, Chávez argued that King Juan Carlos had overstepped the mark, especially as he was just one of many heads of state attending the summit in the Chilean capital.

"[King Juan Carlos] is just as much a head of state as I am with the difference that I was elected three times," Chávez said. "No head of state can tell another to shut up."

[Copyright EL PAÍS, SL./ PERU EGURBIDE 2007]

Subject: Spanish news


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