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Venezuelan and Spanish officials play down Chavez words

Monday, November 26th 2007 - 20:00 UTC
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Venezuela's ambassador to Madrid on Monday tried to downplay President Hugo Chavez's statement that he was “freezing” bilateral relations until King Juan Carlos of Spain apologized for telling him to shut up at the recent Ibero-American summit in Chile.

"The two countries have a common future beyond ups and downs," Ambassador Alfredo Toro said after a half-hour meeting with the Spanish Foreign Ministry's top official for Latin America, Trinidad Jimenez. Jimenez said Toro assured her there was no change in the countries' relations. Deputy Foreign Minister Bernardino Leon said Spain would contact Venezuelan officials in Caracas, but added that the Venezuelan leader's remarks "are not very far removed from what he has been saying these days." In an interview with Antena 3 television, Leon avoided comment on whether King Juan Carlos or the Spanish government was considering an apology. Last November 10, the King told Chavez to "why don't you shut up" during an Ibero-American summit in Chile after the Venezuelan leader called Spain's former premier, Jose Maria Aznar, a fascist. The incident has been followed by periodic sniping from Chavez, who said Sunday: "Until the king of Spain apologizes, I'm freezing relations with Spain". Chavez has said he will review Spanish business operations in Venezuela. However Jiménez pointed out that since the incident in Santiago, no consequences have been registered because diplomatic and economic relations between the two countries "have continued to function". "Not one single Spanish corporation has reported to us that it has been affected in its relations, investments or daily business in Venezuela, not only now but in the last two weeks", said Jiménez. The minister also recalled that 300.000 Spaniards live in Venezuela, a country with which "we have a very relevant historic relation", and therefore links must return "to where they should be". However the Venezuelan ambassador has only been in the post for a few weeks and still must be received by the King for the formal presentation of his credentials.

Categories: Politics, Latin America.

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