King Juan Carlos leads Spanish tributes to Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez
Monarch and leftist leader had famous spat at 2007 Iberoamerican summit
Spain’s government, as well as King Juan Carlos, on Wednesday sent its condolences to the Venezuelan people for the death of President Hugo Chávez, who passed away late Tuesday following a long battle with cancer. In a telegram to Venezuelan Vice President Nicolás Maduro, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said that Chávez’s death represents the “disappearance of one of the most influential figures in contemporary Venezuelan history.”
Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo said that Spain “would continue to work intensely to strengthen bilateral relations” with a new government in Caracas. He said that the Spanish government hoped for a peaceful and democratic transition.
Recovering from back surgery in Madrid, King Juan Carlos also sent a telegram recalling Chávez’s “determination and dedication” in helping Venezuela and the rest of Latin America.
A 2007 heated exchange between the king and Chávez at the Iberoamerican Summit in Chile, where the monarch told him “why don’t you shut up?” is perhaps the best remembered incident of all their encounters throughout the years. The two joked about it a year later ending diplomatic tensions between Spain and Venezuela with the king presenting Chávez with a t-shirt emblazoned with the words “Why don’t you shut up?”
Also remembering his “great influence,” the Socialist Party also expressed hope that free elections will be held.
There were, however, mixed reactions from Spain’s large Venezuelan community.
William Cárdenas, the leader of the Platform for a Democratic Venezuela in Madrid, said he believed that “Chavism without Chávez would not have a long future.”
“When personified caudillos die so dos the impression they leave,” Cárdenas said.
In the Canary Islands, where some 40,000 Venezuelans live, people expressed hope that the country’s leaders would respect the Constitution and call elections.
Efraín Medina, who works for the island government and lived in Venezuela for 18 years, said that even if Venezuelans were prepared for his death they are still shocked by Chávez’s passing.