Commentary Magazine


Shutting Chavez Up

Let’s have a round of applause for Spain’s King Juan Carlos. Yesterday, during the last working session of the XVII Iberoamerican Summit in Santiago, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez called former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar “a fascist.” “Fascists are not human,” Chavez declared. “A snake is more human.”

Spain’s current prime minister, socialist Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, began a dignified response when the Venezuelan repeatedly tried to interrupt him. The King then lost his patience with Chavez and snapped, “Why don’t you shut up?”

Diplomacy is almost always a matter of nuance and inflection. Sometimes, however, we just need to use plain words. Chavez has no trouble telling us what’s on his mind. It’s high time that Western leaders tell him what’s on theirs. Short of slapping the Venezuelan bully upside the head, words are our best weapon to put him in his place. And while we’re at it, let’s also belittle the world’s other autocrats when we have the opportunity. The West’s high-minded language of the last decade has only legitimized a whole new crew of despots.

In the meantime, I hope King Juan Carlos will give Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe a piece of his mind as well. Why stop with Chavez?

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