- Created: Thursday, 30 April 2009 11:04
- Written by Juanjo Rivas
On 10 November, at the XVII Ibero-American Summit, an argument broke out between the Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero and his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez. The King of Spain, Juan Carlos I, intervened by shouting to Chavez, ‘Why don’t you shut up?’ The King left the conference room shortly afterwards. The image was sent around the world and the Spanish media rushed to present the King as a decent democrat, willing to confront and defy ‘Chavez’s totalitarianism’. TV footage has been relentlessly broadcast, taken out of context, providing fuel for a diplomatic crisis between Spain and Venezuela. But, what really happened and what was the argument about?
The Spanish delegation patronises these summits, more interested in defending Spain’s investments in South America than anything else. However, this time some participants seemed less docile than on previous occasions; Bolivia, Ecuador and Argentina criticised Spanish diplomacy and the role of Spanish companies. The meeting was chaired by Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, close friend of Zapatero, who allowed him to justify the so-called ‘Spanish social investment’ in the region when it was Nicaraguan President Ortega’s turn to speak. Chavez interrupted Zapatero, and in his intervention called former Spanish Prime Minister Aznar ‘fascist’. Nothing shocking, considering that prior to the summit Aznar said Chavez was a ‘new dictator’, ‘supporter of abuse, tyranny and impoverishment’ and Aznar helped the failed 2002 military coup against the Venezuelan President. Chavez’s insistence in calling Aznar fascist was the spark for King Juan Carlos Borbon to lose his temper and take on the role of the Chair with customary arrogance.
After the incident, Ortega continued his speech and criticised the gangster-type behaviour of Spanish multi-nationals and the lack of energy supplies in Nicaragua caused by Spain’s Union Fenosa. At this point the King stood up and left.
King Juan Carlos had no right to take on the role of the Chair and ask anyone to shut up. At the summit he was the only head of state not democratically elected, having been appointed by the fascist dictator Franco. He is a multimillionaire with ties to bosses convicted of corruption; he is close to tyrants from Morocco and Saudi Arabia and in 1977 he asked his friend the Persian Shah for $10 million to fund the Spanish monarchy. Today he enjoys his over 1,790 million euros fortune (Forbes, 2003) sailing his massive yacht, shooting protected bears in Romania and Russia and poking his nose into Latin-American issues. This successor to Franco, never chosen by Spain’s people, and his family live in obscene luxury at taxpayers’ expense, protected by laws preventing any legal action against him, no matter what he does. What sort of moral authority has this parasitic character to talk as he did to a president repeatedly re-elected over the last decade?
Maybe the King’s reaction was due to the bad year he’s had. On 7 February, the Princess’s sister committed suicide with a pills overdose. On 14 April, Catalan nationalists presented Congress with a project to submit the royal budget to MPs’ approval. On 20 July a judge ordered the seizure of a magazine which made a sexual joke about successors to the throne. On 13 September, Catalan nationalists burned pictures of the King at the end of a demonstration. On top of that, since the 2006 celebrations of the 75th anniversary of the Spanish Republic, the republican spirit has been growing, undermining the popularity of the monarchy.
Juan Carlos and Chavez are both Chiefs of the Armed Forces. Venezuela’s armed forces are involved in social projects related to housing, emergency services and education. Spain’s are part of an imperialist joint-venture which occupies Lebanon and Afghanistan. Chavez is a democratically-elected president of a sovereign country, trying to develop mass participation in meeting social needs. Juan Carlos is head of the state which colonised South America for centuries, leading a medieval institution based on inherited power and privilege, not subject to any control by citizens. Given the facts, King Juan Carlos Bourbon, why don’t you shut up?
FRFI 200 December 2007 / January 2008