CARACAS, Venezuela – President Hugo Chavez is not about to turn the other cheek after a catching a verbal slap from Spanish King Juan Carlos last weekend.
The fiery leftist leader of Venezuela all but openly warned Spain that his country doesn't need Spanish investment, and that he expects the king to offer an immediate apology.
"The king lost it," Chavez said at a political rally late Tuesday night. "He should say, '... I, the king, confess, I was beside myself, I made a mistake.' "
The international incident took place last Saturday at a political summit in Chile, during which time the king interrupted a Chavez name-calling rant by leaning across the conference table and yelling, "Why don't you just shut up?"
Chavez again spoke about the incident during a news conference Wednesday, repeating his demand for an apology, while offering a veiled threat of retribution.
"He disrespected me, and he was laid bare before the world in his arrogance and also his impotence," Chavez told reporters. "We don't want this to become a political crisis."
"Spain has many investments, private companies here and we don't want to damage that, but if they are damaged, they are damaged. Spanish investment in Venezuela is not indispensable. ... We don't need it," Chavez said, mentioning Spanish banks Banco Santander SA and Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA.
"Whatever has been privatized can be taken back, we can take it back," Chavez told Reuters. "If the government of Spain or the state of Spain ... start to generate a conflict, things are not going to go well."
The spat began Saturday when Chavez accused former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar of backing a coup that briefly removed him from power in 2002 and repeatedly called Aznar "fascist" in an address at the summit of leaders from Latin America, Spain and Portugal.
Spain's current socialist prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, asked Chavez to be more diplomatic. When Chavez kept talking, Juan Carlos leaned into view and said, "Why don't you shut up?"
Recounting Spain's history of colonial rule in Latin America, Chavez called the King's remark a reflection of "500 years of arrogance."
"'Why don't you shut up?' It's the same imperial fury, imperial arrogance," Chavez said.
Spain diplomats worked feverishly behind the scenes, trying to ease tensions between the two leaders.
"We are fully convinced that due to action being taken on all sides it will be possible in a relatively ... short time, to return ties to normal," Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos told Reuters.