Spain’s King Juan Carlos (now famously) told Hugo Chavez to “shut up” after the Venezuelan president repeatedly referred to former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar as a “fascist” at the Ibero-American Summit in Santiago, Chile, Nov. 10. (AP, Nov. 11) The following day, Chavez upped the ante by suggesting that Juan Carlos knew in advance of the abortive 2002 coup d’etat in Venezuela. Chavez asserted that Spain’s ambassador had appeared at Venezuela’s presidential palace during the two-day coup to support interim “president” Pedro Carmona—with the King’s blessing. “Mr. King, did you know about the coup d’etat against Venezuela, against the democratic, legitimate government of Venezuela in 2002?” Chavez rhetorically asked at a news conference “It’s very hard to imagine the Spanish ambassador would have been at the presidential palace supporting the coup-plotters without authorization from his majesty.”
The initial “fascist” remark Nov. 10 came in reference to Aznar’s support for the FTAA/ALCA trade pact, which Chávez described as “an imperialist project.” Chavez embellished: “Fascists are not human. A snake is more human.” Spain’s current Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, aadressed Chavez in his turn at the mike: “President Hugo Chavez, I think there is an essential principle to dialogue, and that is, to respect and be respected, we should be careful not to fall into insults.” Chavez continued to interrupt as Zapatero spoke, although his microphone was off. Juan Carlos, seated next to Zapatero, leaned toward Chavez and loudly asked, “Why don’t you shut up?” The monarch then left the chamber.
“They told me some Spanish officials grabbed him by the arm, because he’s strong and tall,” Chavez recalled in comments published Sunday by Spain’s El Mundo. “He acted like an angry bull. I’m no bullfighter—but olé!”
Chavez later accused Juan Carlos of violating protocol. “I hope this will not damage relations,” Chavez said as he left his Santiago hotel room Nov. 11. “But I think it’s imprudent for a king to shout at a president to shut up.” (AP, Nov. 12; BBC, Nov. 11; TypicallySpanish, Nov. 10)