Sunday, November 11, 2007
Chavez, in an international conference, seated on the same stage as the King of Spain and Prime Minister Zapatero tears into Zapatero's predecessor, Aznar, calling him a fascist. After his turn was up, he kept on blabbing, and King Juan Carlos tells him: "Why don't you shut up" - "porque no te callas" The King, many people agree was indispensable in helping his people transition from Franco to Democracy, and begin to recover from the dark legacy of the Civil War, Fascism and the Franco era. Throwing around the term "fascist" loose and easy, like Chavez does must have really annoyed the King.
In Latin America, the King is well respected, has a high profile, and has cultivated his image carefully the past decades. Some people seem to think he is sincere in caring the area and its peoples - who after all are the ones guaranteeing the future existence and vitality of the Spanish language. King Juan Carlos by Spanish law has to avoid politics, left to elected officials. This can be difficult, but in the Americas he meets and has met with leaders across the spectrum like Fidel Castro, Uribe, Fox, Evo, and makes standard royal pronouncements.
In Europe, Chavez vulgar display might turn off some people, who otherwise enjoyed his anti-US tirades.
In Latin America however, one problem is that Chavez is a media creature. He is like an American radio shock jock or TV commentator, who plays the common-sensical, irreverent, common man, dealing with the high-thinking, corrupt elites. Chavez "makes his bones" going after regional and international players to get coverage on TV, inspire reactions mentioning him, and ultimately winning votes. Not much different from a Stern or Oreilly feuding with celebrities and politicians to pump up ratings and get tabloid coverage. It makes it harder to figure out the backlash. Some people in Venezuela -and other Latin American countries, might think it hilarious he exasperated the King to such a level he broke protocol. Or see it as pure bravado. "Keeping it Real." One persons vulgarity is another persons irreverence. But, even some ideologues might be put off by Chavez latest display. It reveals an impulsiveness, mixed with a dangerous mix of demagogic certainty, intolerance, and agression. A bully, a loud-mouth, and only 3 weeks from becoming the King of Venezuela.