Pain In Spain Comes Mainly From The Reign

Interesting piece on Venezuela-Spain relations following King Juan Carlos’s much-publicized and praised ‘why don’t you shut up?’ ejaculation at the Ibero-American summit and Chávez’s subsequent talk of freezing relations.

Tampoco se conoce que significa exactamente eso de “congelar” las relaciones. Pero si hay algo seguro para los empresarios españoles radicados en Venezuela es que si la tensión entre ambos Gobiernos continúa en aumento, España llevará las de perder. “Esto no es un país como Bolivia o Cuba, que le deben a España créditos y ayudas. Con Bolivia y Cuba el Gobierno español puede ejercer cierta influencia. Pero Venezuela paga todo lo que compra y no se endeuda”, comenta la citada fuente que prefiere mantenerse en el anonimato.

“En 1999 hubo unas lluvias catastróficas aquí. España concedió unas ayudas con cargo al desarrollo. Había que construir dos subestaciones eléctricas en Cabruta y San Gerónimo, dos municipios situados en el centro geográfico del país, para paliar los efectos de la lluvia. La obra se licitó en España entre empresas españolas y ganó el contrato Iberdrola. Las condiciones del crédito eran inmejorables: 0,1% de interés y 40 años para pagar. Pero Venezuela no lo quiso financiar con cargos de ayuda al desarrollo. Decidió hacerlo con fondos propios. Desde hace dos años atrás han evitado nuevos endeudamientos con cualquier país. Chávez no nos debe nada y él lo sabe”.

A literal transation:

‘Nor is it known what exactly ‘freezing’ relations means. But if one thing is sure for Spanish businessmen based in Venezuela, it is that if the tension between both governments continues to rise, Spain will be the loser. “This isn’t a country like Bolivia and Cuba, which owe Spain credit and aid. With Bolivia and Cuba the Spanish government can exercise a certain influence. But Venezuela pays for everything it buys, and doesn’t get into debt”, commented the cited source who prefers to remain anonymous.

In 1999 there were catastrophic downpours here. Spain released aid destined for development. There had to be two electric substations built in the geographic centre of the country to mitigate the effects of the rain. The work was tendered in Spain, and Iberdrola won the contract. The credit conditions were unbeatable: 0.1% interest rates and 40 years to pay. But Venezuela didn’t want to finance it with development aid. They decided to do it with their own funds. Since two years back they have avoided new debts with any country. Chávez owes us nothing, and he knows it.’

The article ends thus:

Así que si quiere que paguemos un precio por las palabras del Rey, lo pagaremos.

That is, ‘So, if he (Chávez) wants us to pay a price for the words of the King, we will pay it.’

The problem will resolve itself via diplomatic means, of course. Little has been mentioned of the context of the original remarks by Chávez that prompted Zapatero’s intervention in defense of José María Aznar and the King’s subsequent ‘shut up’ at Chávez’s protestations.

Chávez said that Aznar had supported the 2002 coup and was a fascist, but that was in the context of wider remarks about the role of other countries meddling in Latin American affairs. Zapatero had been talking about mutual tolerance and respect, and traditions shared values and the usual sort of lilting waffle that is the bread and butter of such summits from Riyadh to Reykjavik, a lubricant for the business deals to go down nicely. Even Karl Marx was European, he (Zapatero) remarked, implying that facts such as these demanded that the Europeans at the banquet deserved respect.

Chávez’s response to this was, to paraphrase, well, it’s all very well coming up with all these nice words, but we need to bear history in mind here, and if you look at the reality of external intervention in Latin America in recent history, things are somewhat different. He mentioned the US-backed coup in 1973 in Chile, and then went on to talk about the 2002 attempted coup in Venezuela, citing Aznar’s support for the coup and calling Aznar a fascist.  Zapatero then made his intervention defending José María Aznar, no doubt mindful of the rottweillers at home who would have him for breakfast if he failed to defend the honour of a man who took Spanish troops into Iraq with the support of 4% of the population and who, since leaving office, has sought to undermine Zapatero’s government at every opportunity his limited public speaking skills have afforded him. And while Zapatero was demanding respect for Aznar, Chávez, whose microphone was switched off, was repeatedly saying ‘tell him that!’, referring to Aznar’s own public declarations against the Venezuelan government. And then the King told Chávez to shut up, garnering the admiration of political telenovela lovers the world over.

In short, then, Chávez’s point was that countries outside Latin America would do well to bear in mind recent history when making nice noises. And the King told him to shut up. Now it turns out that Chávez hasn’t shut up at all, and, with the objective of protecting Spanish business interests -which was the original point of the summit anyway- Spain looks poised to make what is known in the trade as a ‘humiliating climbdown’.


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