As you have probably seen, Hugo Chavez was told to shut up the other day by king Juan Carlos during an international conference. Chavez was boorish as usual, using flamboyant insults to lambaste former Spanish president Aznar as a ‘fascist’ (not strictly correct – Aznar was a falangist, which isn’t quite the same thing). When current president Zapatero stepped in to say ‘Steady on, old boy’, Chavez wouldn’t stop interrupting him, despite his microphone being turned off. At this point, Juan Carlos did his bit for international diplomacy by saying “Why don’t you just shut up?”.
The general feeling in the media is that most Spaniards are pretty happy about their king taking Chavez down a peg, but the people I’ve spoken with don’t sound quite so pleased. Chavez was being a complete prick, as usual, but JC didn’t make himself look much more civilised by telling him to shut up, and then storming out of the conference. A friend said to me “He shouldn’t have said that… that’s not how you talk to people at these sorts of events”. And I agree. The king, for all the short term ‘macho’ points he might have earned, didn’t do much to make Spain look like the modern, civilised democracy we know it to be. He may also have piled some more risk onto Spain’s relations with Latin America, which could affect trade and the economy. No, it was an unhelpful flare of temper and not much more.
One man did make Spain look good, and that was Zapatero. In the coverage on the UK’s Channel 4 News, ZP was praised for his composure and diplomacy. Oh, and apparently, our cousin Mariano Rajoy telephoned the king to thank him for sticking up for Aznar… but failed to call Zapatero to thank him. What a petty, poisonous little man Rajoy is. He’s almost worse than Aznar.