Venezuelan ambassador downplays Chávez "freeze"

27th November 2007, Comments 0 comments

27 November 2007, MADRID - Venezuela's ambassador to Madrid joined Spanish officials Monday in downplaying remarks by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez that he is "freezing" bilateral relations until King Juan Carlos apologises for telling him to shut up.

27 November 2007

MADRID - Venezuela's ambassador to Madrid joined Spanish officials Monday in downplaying remarks by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez that he is "freezing" bilateral relations until King Juan Carlos apologises for telling him to shut up.

Following a 20-minute meeting with Trinidad Jiménez, the secretary of state for Latin American affairs, Ambassador Alfredo Toro, said that Chávez's comments do not substantially change how Venezuela is handling its relations with Spain since the diplomatic spat at the Iberoamerican Summit on November 10.

King Juan Carlos told Chávez to "shut up" during the televised closing session of the meeting in Chile after the Venezuelan leader interrupted Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero to call his predecessor, José María Aznar, a "fascist."

On Sunday, Chávez reiterated his demand for an apology.

"Until the king of Spain apologises, I'm freezing relations with Spain," the Venezuelan leader, who previously said he would scrutinise Spain's business interests in his country, declared.

However, the ambassador denied that Chávez's remarks constituted a new provocation. "Our relations have a future beyond these ups and downs," Toro told reporters. Speaking earlier yesterday, Jiménez said that so far Chávez's threats had amounted to little action. "There have been no consequences for our diplomatic or economic relations," she said.

Jiménez suggested that Chávez's comments should be viewed in a "broader context." His demand for an apology came during a televised speech dedicated mostly to his decision to freeze ties with Colombia. Jiménez said Spain was mentioned by way of a "comparison."

Gerardo Díaz Ferrán, the head of Spain's biggest business confederation, said yesterday that he hopes relations with Venezuela will soon return to normal.

[Copyright EL PAÍS, SL./ A. EATWELL 2007]

Subject: Spanish news

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