Expatica news

Chávez meet with prince could see Madrid-Caracas rift healed

7 December 2007

MADRID – Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez may meet with Crown Prince Felipe of Spain during the swearing-in of Argentine President-elect Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in Buenos Aires on Monday, giving the two an opportunity to start mending the recently strained relations between Caracas and Madrid.

Chávez said Thursday that it is a "positive sign" that Prince Felipe plans to meet with him a month after the Venezuelan leader’s well-publicised spat with his father, King Juan Carlos, at the Iberoamerican Summit in Chile.

During a televised session at the end of the meeting of heads of state and government from Spain, Portugal and Latin America, Juan Carlos asked Chávez "Why don’t you shut up?" after the Venezuelan leader repeatedly interrupted Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and called his conservative predecessor, José María Aznar, a "fascist."

Since then, Chávez has threatened to "revise" relations with Spain and scrutinise Spanish companies’ operations in his country unless King Juan Carlos apologises.

However, Prince Felipe may seek to put an end to the dispute in Buenos Aires.

"Informal meeting"
"It is very possible and probable that Prince Felipe will hold an informal meeting with Chávez," Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos said Wednesday.

A foreign ministry spokesman subsequently confirmed that a meeting is planned, although he did not elaborate on whether or not Felipe would be bearing a personal message from the king.

Chávez repeatedly referred to the row with the Spanish monarch as he campaigned ahead of a referendum in Venezuela last Sunday for support for a proposed constitutional reform, which would have allowed him to stay in power indefinitely and paved the way for the country to become an outright socialist state.

Voters ultimately rejected the amendments by a slim margin, with 51.05 percent saying no to the reforms, and 48.94 percent voting in favour. The events took many by surprise, given that Chávez has not lost an election or referendum since coming to power in 1998.

[Copyright EL PAÍS, SL. 2007]

Subject: Spanish news