“Why don’t you shut up?”

Rodolfo Hernández

In 2000 the Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano stated that the world was “upside down”. If you don’t believe it, just take a look to what recently happened during the XVII Ibero American Summit in Chile (Nov. 13, 2007): “Why don’t you shut up?” ordered the king of Spain Juan Carlos I to Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, after the Latin American leader called José María Aznar, former Spain’s president, a “fascist”. The abrupt intervention of the King occurred while the current head of Spaniard government José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero defended Aznar from Chavez’ accusation. The episode ended minutes later when Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega referred in his intervention to the collaboration between the Spaniard and the U.S. government to defeat the Sandinistas in the presidential election. The king left the room visibly upset.

Is the world upside down? We have the socialist Rodriguez Zapatero demanding respect to right-wing ex president Aznar (arguing that he has been “democratically” elected), while the king of Spain (who represents the monarchy, a quintessentially anti-democratic institution) was sitting next to him! So in the world upside down the left defends the right even though the right led Spain to participate in the war in Iraq.

Furthermore, under this new rationality, shall we assume that the atrocities committed by a government must not be objected to or morally condemned only because they were actions of a “democratically” elected government? Needless to say it was the intervention of Spain in Iraq, ending with the terrible terrorist attacks in Madrid in March 11 of 2004 killing 192 innocent people that lead to the defeat of Aznar’s party (the Partido Popular) in the presidential elections of 2004.

And what about president Bush and his neo-colonial war in Iraq? Would Zapatero also urge us to respect him and his war just because he was “democratically elected” (which it is still questionable)? So, is the world upside down? Yes, the world is absolutely upside down, and maybe that is the reason why the king believes that he still is living in the XVI century and he can order to shut up to one of his subjects.

What could be the motivations that led the king to try to silence president Chávez? Is it because Chávez is really a “threat to the market economy, to freedom, co-existence and citizen’s welfare,” as it was referred in “Latin America: an Agenda for Freedom”, a document published in 2007, by the “Fundación Para El Análisis y Los Estudios Sociales”, a think-tank founded by Aznar?

This is not the first time that Latin Americans have been ordered to remain in silence. They have been requested to do so, sometimes politely, sometimes not. Genocide, for example, was one of the methods to force the population to shut up and to fulfill the goals of the Spanish conquers. As Bartolomé de las Casas pointed out, in the XVI century, the motivations for “killing and destroying such an infinite number of souls is that the Christians have an ultimate aim, which is to acquire gold. It should be kept in mind that their insatiable greed and ambition, the greatest ever seen in the world, is the cause of their villainies.”

The king of Spain’s “why don’t you shut up?” embodies the connection with former notions of “natural” subjection of Latin Americans to new class interests to control and exploit the continent as in the old days of the monarchy. Maybe that “insatiable greed and ambition” keeps trying to run in the once upon a time called “New World”. Possibly, behind the unexpected intervention of the King and Zapatero’s defense of former president Aznar, are the old imperial ambitions, this time represented by the Spaniard corporations, such as Repsol, the oil company that has been severely affected by ongoing nationalization programs in Latin American countries, such as Bolivia.

In the XIX century, the Revolutionary Proclamation of the Junta Tuitiva in La Paz in July 16 of 1809, responded to the Spaniard monarchy: “We have maintained a silence closely resembling stupidity,” Galeano notes in 1973. After nearly two hundred years, it seems that Latin Americans have no other option but to be the subjects in silence of the “greed and ambition”. Yes, definitely the world is totally upside down, and the imperial ambition to dominate Latin America, in a new way and even more brutally as before, is still there. That is why Latin America cannot be shut up — even by a king.