Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Venezuelan leader is main attraction during summit in Chile

Chavez gets mobile phone call from Fidel Castro

The recent trip by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to Santiago, Chile, to attend the 17th version Ibero-American Summit will long be remembered due to the controversy caused by his statements.

Chavez during his two hour speech

The Ibero-American Summit, which took place from Nov. 9-11, is a forum between Spain and Portugal, two former colonial powers that ruled Latin America for nearly 300 years and all the Latin American countries that gained independence from them at the beginning of the 19th century.


The main goal of the summits is to increase cooperation and improve relations among these countries, but after the recent events in Santiago, many analysts doubt that another one will be held in the near future. Until this year, the summits had been quite a boring affair, with the most interesting activities being posh dinners, folk singing and dance shows, and finally meetings that always seem to end inconclusively.

Many Chilean citizens interviewed by TV crews on the street were unable to explain exactly the aim of the summit. But now, thanks to the charismatic and eccentric Chavez, the summit has become the favorite topic for debates.

The controversy began on the first day, Nov. 8, when the local press noted that Raul Reyes, second in command of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC, to use the Spanish acronym), had arrived secretly in Santiago.

Raul Reyes,No.2 of the FARC

Speaking in Bogota, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe demanded that Reyes be immediately arrested. Afterward, the Chilean police confirmed that Reyes was not in the country but in some undisclosed jungle area near the border between Colombia and Venezuela.


It seems that Reyes was in fact meeting with Hugo Chavez, who is acting as a mediator between the Uribe administration and the FARC on an agreement to exchange hundreds of jailed FARC militants for an equal number of government prisoners. The FARC rebels are holding many Colombian army soldiers, government officials and politicians hostage in their jungle bases in western Colombia. This may account for why Chavez arrived in Santiago at 6:00 a.m. on Nov. 9 in his brand new Sukhoi aircraft, which was recently acquired in Russia, along with many fighter planes, helicopters, submarines and 100,000 AK-47 assault rifles.

The Singing President

Chavez has become the "singing" president of South America. After walking down from his airplane, Chavez greeted reporters with a traditional folk song called "The Little Gold Coin." The main chorus of this song is as follows: "I am not a little gold coin, and this is why many people do not like me." Chavez immediately began to create tension as he criticized the slogan of the summit, which aims at creating "social cohesion" in Latin America. "This is not enough for me, we need socialism, it's the only way to end poverty in our continent," said Chavez. Then he left for a hotel, which he had demanded not be one of the many American chains in the Chilean capital.

Chilean and Venezuelan Flags

The rest of the day, the press anxiously waited for Chavez's next appearance. During the first meeting with the other heads of state, Chavez caused another controversy by speaking for half an hour instead of the traditional five minutes, then again by not attending the traditional state dinner held that evening at the "La Moneda" presidential palace. One of his major allies in the region, Bolivian President Evo Morales was also absent from the dinner. Morales chose instead to play a football match against a team of Chilean politicians and reporters. Along with a team formed by his bodyguards, Morales scored two goals during the 8-1 victory over the Chilean team.

Heated Argument With the King of Spain

Most international news agencies reported the next incident to occur. On Saturday morning, during the final meeting, Chavez began to accuse former Spanish Premier Jose Maria Aznar of an attempted overthrow of the Chavez government in 2002.

"I said it yesterday and I'll say it again today, Aznar is a fascist," said Chavez.

At this point, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Zapatero, who was sitting four chairs to Chavez's left, replied by saying, "Let me remind you that former President Aznar was elected by the Spanish people, so I cannot accept those comments about him."

A heated debate ensued between Chavez and Zapatero, but it could not be heard clearly because the Venezuelan leader's microphone had been switched off.

Sitting next to Zapatero was the King of Spain, Juan Carlos. He pointed his finger at Chavez and shouted, "Why don't you shut up?"

At this point Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, acting as mediator of the meeting, tried to intervene. "Please, gentlemen, can we continue with the normal discussion," she said.

But the shouting match between Zapatero and Chavez continued.

Sitting next to Chavez was the Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, a close ally. He defended Chavez by criticizing the Spaniards since he had only been allowed to speak once, "While they had been given two chances to give their opinions."

For possibly the first time in his life, the King of Spain lost his temper in public, stood up and left the room.

After a brief conversation with Bachelet, who tried to convince him to return to the meeting, the King of Spain departed with his bodyguards for the airport and left the country immediately.

The general opinion among the Spanish reporters present was that they had never seen their king so angry. They were surprised by his reaction to the opinions given by Chavez.

The Alternate "People`s Summit"

Bolivian delegation

On Nov 10, at 3:00 p.m., Hugo Chavez appeared at the "Summit for the Friendship and Integration of the Ibero-American People," also known as "The Summit of the People." It was organized by Chilean left wing parties. Many delegations from neighboring countries were present, such as the "Landless Movement" (MST) from Brazil, representatives of Bolivian and Chilean native groups, and representatives of university students from Argentina.

Aucan Huilcaman,Mapuche leader with supporters

Next was Chavez, who for two hours made a constant attack on the United States government, praised the examples of Fidel Castro, Salvador Allende, Che Guevara and even quoted Mao Tse-tung, who once stated, "Capitalism will end as a paper tiger."

But the most spectacular part of Chavez's speech occurred as Carlos Lage handed him a mobile phone. Chavez claimed to be speaking to Fidel Castro. Castro's voice was heard faintly as Chavez placed the mobile next to the microphone. Then the Venezuelan president attempted to connect the mobile's loudspeaker but was unable to do so. "I don't know how this model works, but anyway, Fidel sends his regards to all of you," Chavez saidDuring his speech, Chavez announced that he had made an agreement with the Chinese government to build the first South American satellite, which will be sent into orbit to broadcast Telesur, a television network that already has stations in Brazil and Bolivia. Chavez also stated that Telesur would broadcast in conjunction with Al-Jazeera, the Arab news network.

New Venezuelan flag created by Hugo Chavez

Finally, Chavez issued a warning to the United States: If it invades any South American country, it would be faced with "many Vietnams."
"The Venezuelan revolution is armed. We will not end up like Allende, who had no weapons and was not a soldier. However, in my case I am a professional soldier, I am ready for war," Chavez said.
Next to speak was President Ortega of Nicaragua. He also attacked the United States. In addition, he praised Hugo Chavez and called for an end to the Organization of American States (OAS). According to Ortega, Washington controls the OAS. Because of this, Latin American countries should form a new organization, which would include Cuba but not the United States, in opposition to the OAS.

The ceremony ended with Chavez, Ortega, Morales and Lage saluting the crowd to the tune of the traditional Chilean revolutionary song "El Pueblo Unido Jamas Sera Vencido" ("The United People Will Never Be Defeated").

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