Spain and Venezuela normalise ties after royal snub

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Meeting between King Juan Carlos and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Friday marked the final reconciliation between the two countries.

28 July 2008

PALMA DE MAJORCA / MADRID - Spain and Venezuela normalized relations Friday, eight months after King Juan Carlos angered Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez by telling him to shut up.

"We have come to reach out the hand of friendship and affection and to work together," Chavez said in Madrid at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who spoke of a "positive re-encounter".

Chavez said his meeting with his "friend" the king in Palma de Majorca had been "very pleasant".

Chavez began his visit with a one-hour-meeting with Juan Carlos at the Marivent palace, where the monarch gave him a warm welcome despite his arrival an hour late.

"Why don't we go to the beach?" Chavez asked the king after commenting on how hot it was on the island.

The meeting marked a final reconciliation between Spain and Venezuela after relations cooled following an unusual diplomatic incident at an Ibero-American summit in Chile in November.

Chavez called former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar a fascist and repeatedly interrupted Zapatero, prompting Juan Carlos to snap at him: "Why don't you shut up?"

The words instantly became a catchphrase in the Spanish-speaking world, where they were even turned into a mobile phone ring tone. T- shirts displaying the slogan are still for sale in Madrid.

Chavez threatened to freeze relations with Spain, but diplomats worked patiently on mending them, with Zapatero meeting the Venezuelan leader in May and Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos visiting him in June.

Juan Carlos has not given Chavez the requested apology, but the Venezuelan finally said he wanted to give the king a hug - with the latter knowing, he added, that "I will not shut up."

Chavez and Zapatero pledged to boost energy cooperation, with Chavez encouraging the Spanish oil company Repsol to invest in Venezuela's Orinoco oil reserves, one of the biggest in the world.

Chavez said he would propose a working group of Latin American and European - especially Spanish and Portuguese - representatives to discuss the European Union's tougher immigration policy, which Venezuela opposes.

"We are not seeking any kind of confrontation, but solutions," Chavez said, explaining he had discussed the working group with other Latin American leaders.

Dozens of people greeted Chavez on Majorca with shouts of "president! president!" Around 50 students meanwhile staged a rally at a Madrid park "in solidarity with the socialist revolution in Venezuela."

Chavez visited Spain during a tour which also took him to Russia, Belarus and Portugal.

[dpa / Expatica]

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