LAT Distorts Chronology of Juan Carlos/Hugo Chavez Incident

Here's how it occurred:

1. Venezuela's Hugo Chavez calls former Spanish prime minister Aznar a "fascist."
2. Chavez interrupts current Spanish prime minister Zapatero.
3. Spanish King Juan Carlos tells Chavez to "shut up."

Let me get this straight. King Carlos of Spain started this?

According to a Nov., 11th AP story, it was Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who first "triggered the exchange by repeatedly referring to former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar as a ‘fascist.'" Chavez, reportedly also piled on the defamatory remarks by adding, "Fascists are not human. A snake is more human."

The AP account proceeds to lay out the course of events:

Spain's current socialist prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, responded during his own allotted time by urging Chavez to be more diplomatic in his words and respect other leaders despite political differences.

"Former President Aznar was democratically elected by the Spanish people and was a legitimate representative of the Spanish people," he said, eliciting applause from the gathered heads of state.

Chavez repeatedly tried to interrupt, but his microphone was off.

Spanish King Juan Carlos, seated next to Zapatero, angrily turned to Chavez and said, "Why don't you shut up?"

At this point, the only thought in my head was what took so long for someone to tell Chavez to shut up. We've seen Chavez act like this in the past.

But today, almost a week later, the LA Times has developed a different take with their presentation on the front page of Section A. The headline, print edition, proclaims, Monarch's words with Chavez start a battle royal. The on-line web headline is slightly different with, "King's words to Chavez start a battle royal." One can almost sense the vote amongst the staff: 11 hands for "Monarch," and ten for "King."

While not readily seeing the need to visit the dictionary to look up the word "start," I was pleased to find some amusement in the exercise. According to, a few common uses include:

- to rouse (game) from its lair or covert
- a beginning of an action, journey, etc.
- the position or advantage of one who starts first
- a place or time from which something begins

LA Times staff writer, Chris Kraul, actually got started with a great opening line:

Someone finally told Hugo Chavez to shut up, and the Spanish-speaking world can hardly stop talking about it.

Kraul proceeded quite well through a couple more paragraphs with an accurate enough timeline for the exchange:

Chavez was repeatedly interrupting Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero at a summit of leaders of the Spanish-speaking world in Santiago, Chile, last weekend when the Spanish monarch could take it no more. Leaning over from his position a couple of seats away from the president, a clearly exasperated Juan Carlos said: "Por que no te callas?" -- "Why don't you shut up?"

Suddenly Kraul finds reason to debate who is doing the insulting here:

What was uncertain after a week's worth of controversy was who put whom in his place. Political spinmeisters differed on which of the two men came off looking worse: Chavez for his boorish lack of etiquette, or the king for unregally insulting a national leader at a forum whose theme was "social cohesion."

I sense that the "spinmeiesters" are at the LA Times, for how can there be any legitimacy in the view that ends with Chavez only suffering from a ‘boorish lack of etiquette" and King Carlos tearing down the theme of "social Cohesion?" Chavez's all too usual outbursts are anything but boorish. In fact history suggests to us that such words often enough end in war. How in the world did Kraul lose the way here?

Unfortunately, while the angle seems to shift from what Chavez did to what King Carlos caused, we can see that the spin was all designed to speak to a longer look back at history and, I suspect, why Chavez is simply getting even:

The king's five words at the Iberoamerican Summit set off an avalanche of speculation about the political and economic repercussions, and the deeper cultural meaning of the remark in the run-up to the 200th anniversary of independence for the former Spanish colonies.

Kraul gets back to his opening approach to the story with, "Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, who ceded his time at the forum so Chavez could continue his harangue, said, ‘We aren't subject to any king,'" and then entertains the reader with:

Latin American newspapers and television commentators have had a field day. A sketch in the Colombian capital's El Tiempo showed Chavez wearing a crown, sitting on an oil barrel and saying: "I'm the king around here."

Hidden away in this gem of a story are a few interesting little pieces of information that the MSM has had little interest in sharing with its viewers and readers: Chavez and his decrees are not as popular with the citizens of Venezuela as are with the US media. In fact apparently he's not even so popular with the rest of Latin America. Chris Kraul provides the LA Times reader with a bit of parity here:

But others doubt Chavez's criticism will resonate elsewhere across the continent. Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia are generally admired for their charitable works and efforts to unify the region, and Spain gets high marks for its liberal immigration policies, which have fostered strong transatlantic ties. A poll released Friday by Latinobarometro, a nonprofit public opinion firm based in Santiago, revealed that Chavez is no more popular in Latin America than President Bush, a frequent target of his barbs, and is less popular than Zapatero or Juan Carlos.

In Latin America, "Spain has the best image of all countries . . . much better than the United States, for example," said Latinobarometro Director Marta Lagos

Wait till Hollywood finds out about this. Sean Penn, are you paying attention here? Possibly the season's predictions were right. It could be a very downtrodden Christmas season for the spirit in Hollywood, if they were to learn the truth about Chavez.

There is opposition to Chavez. These citizens of Venezuela have had little, if any, coverage in the US media. This scene was published by the BBC, on October 8, 2006, during the presidential race between Hugo Chavez and the opposition candidate, Manuel Rosales:

Venezuela Los Angeles Times Associated Press King Juan Carlos Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero