SANTIAGO, Chile – The king of Spain told Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to “shut up” Saturday during a heated exchange that soured the end of a summit of leaders from Latin America, Spain and Portugal.
Chavez, who called President Bush the “devil” on the floor of the United Nations last year, triggered the exchange by repeatedly referring to former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar as a “fascist.”
Aznar, a conservative ally of Bush as prime minister, “is a fascist,” Chavez said in a speech at the Ibero-American summit. “Fascists are not human. A snake is more human.”
Spain’s socialist prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, responded during his own allotted time by urging Chavez to be more diplomatic in his words and respect other leaders. “Former President Aznar was democratically elected by the Spanish people and was a legitimate representative of the Spanish people,” he said, eliciting applause from the gathered heads of state.
Chavez repeatedly tried to interrupt, but his microphone was off.
Spanish King Juan Carlos, seated next to Zapatero, angrily turned to Chavez and said, “Why don’t you shut up?”
The Venezuelan leader did not immediately respond, but later used time ceded to him by his close ally Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega to answer Zapatero’s speech.
“I do not offend by telling the truth,” he said. “The Venezuelan government reserves the right to respond to any aggression, anywhere, in any space and in any manner.”
In his speech to 18 heads of state gathered in Santiago, Chavez claimed that Aznar in 2000 asked him to distance Venezuela from Cuba and join “the club.” Chavez, a close ally of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, said he’d refused.