User:Jondel/Porque No Te Callas

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Ibero-American Summit, 2007: Juan Carlos, Zapatero and Chávez are seated on the right.

File:Cumbre Iberoamericana 2007.jpg

¿Por qué no te callas? (English: Why don't you shut up?) is a phrase uttered by King Juan Carlos I of Spain to Hugo Chávez, President of Venezuela, at the 2007 Ibero-American Summit in Santiago, Chile. The phrase became an overnight sensation, gaining cult status as a mobile-phone ringtone, spawning a domain name, a contest, T-shirt sales and YouTube videos.

edit Incident

At the meeting on November 10, 2007, Chávez repeatedly interrupted the speech of the Prime Minister of Spain José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero to call the Prime Minister's predecessor, José María Aznar, a "fascist" and "less human than snakes",[1] and accuse Aznar of having supported a failed coup d'état aimed at removing Chávez from power. Zapatero had earlier irritated Chávez by suggesting that Latin America needed to attract more foreign capital to combat its chronic deepening poverty; Chávez's leftist policies shun outside investment.[1][2]

Chavez's attacks became so virulent that Zapatero, who is usually considered deeply opposed to his predecessor's policies, defended his predecessor, pointing out that Aznar had been democratically elected and "a legitimate representative of the Spanish people".[1]

Despite organizers switching off Chávez's microphone, he had continued interrupting while Zapatero was defending the previous Spanish prime minister. King Juan Carlos I leaned forward, turned towards Chávez, and said "¿Por qué no te callas?"[1] He used the informal rather than the formal usted Spanish pronoun for you.

The King's rebuke received applause from the general audience.[2] Shortly after, he left the hall after Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega accused Spain of intervention in his country's elections, and complained about the presence of Spanish energy companies in Nicaragua.[3] The incident is unprecedented, since never before had the king displayed such anger in public.[4]

According to Time magazine, what may have motivated Chávez was that Zapatero — who is a socialist — "insisted that Latin America needs to attract more foreign capital if it's going to make a dent in its chronic, deepening poverty". Because Chávez blames capitalism and insists that only socialism can address inequality in Latin America, he went on the tirade against "Aznar and other free-market 'fascists'," resulting in Zapatero's reminding him that Aznar had been democratically elected.[2]

For the king, the incident adds to what was becoming an annus horribilis[5] for the royal image, beginning with the death of the Princess of Asturias's younger sister, Erika, of a drug overdose, Catalan separatists tried for burning photographs of the king and cartoonists of El Jueves fined for "insulting the heir of the crown". Weeks later, the royal house announced the separation of the king's daughter, the Infanta Elena and her husband, Jaime de Marichalar.

edit Reaction

Since these events, Chávez has made statements against King Juan Carlos I, questioning his democratic legitimacy, and whether he knew about and endorsed the attemped coup d'état in Venezuela in 2002. Chávez defended his accusations against Aznar, arguing that prohibiting criticism of an elected official such as Aznar would be similar to prohibiting criticism of Hitler. He stated that he would revise Venezuela's position towards Spain and increase surveillance of the activities of Spanish companies in Venezuela.[6]

The Spanish government has shown appreciation for the reaction of the king and for Zapatero's defense of the dignity of Spanish elected representatives like Aznar.[7]

Several days after the event, Chávez demanded an apology from King Juan Carlos and warned Spain that he would review diplomatic ties and take action against Spanish investments such as Banco Santander and Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria in Venezuela.[8] He accused the king of displaying the kind of Spanish arrogance that led to their ejection from South America at the hands of Chávez’s hero, Simón Bolívar.[8] Spanish diplomats are concerned that Chávez may replace his anti-Americanism with attacks on what he calls "Spanish imperialism".[9] Speaking about Venezuela's indigenous peoples, Chávez said of the Spanish, "They slit our people's throats and chopped them into little bits and left them on the outskirts of towns and villages - that was what the Spanish empire did here."[9] The Spanish foreign ministry denied that the "¿Por qué no te callas?" incident was indicative of Spanish-Latin American relations.[9] Analysts say Chávez uses such incidents to "fire up his support base among the majority poor at home with blunt language that plays on their misgivings of rich countries’ investments in Latin America."[8]

According to the Los Angeles Times, it is uncertain which of the two men came out of the incident looking worse: "Chávez for his boorish lack of etiquette",[10] or the king for insulting another leader. The king's words raise questions as the "200th anniversary of independence for the former Spanish colonies" approaches.[10] Several days after the incident, Venezuela's state-run television ran footage of Juan Carlos with Francisco Franco. The king was depicted as the dictator's lackey, but the endorsement in 1978 of the monarch by Spanish voters, and the key role played by the king in putting down an attempted military coup in 1981, were not mentioned.[10]

The king's outburst received divided reactions from other leaders. Brazil's President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva defended Chávez, while Peru's and El Salvador's Presidents Alan García and Antonio Saca supported the king.[10]

An editor for the Washington Post noted the "Spanish-speaking world has been abuzz about [this] verbal slapdown," and suggested that King Juan Carlos "should to have asked the assembled heads of state: 'Why don't you speak up?'"[11]

edit Subsequent events

One week after the event, the Wall Street Journal wrote that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia delivered a second rebuke in one week to Chávez from a king, when he reminded Chávez that oil shouldn't be used as a tool for conflict. The remarks came minutes after Chávez called for OPEC to "assert itself as an active political agent" at the OPEC summit in Saudi Arabia's capital, Riyadh.[12] In a followup at the OPEC summit, Reuters wrote that "Spain's king cannot shut Chavez up but bladder can",[13] and Dubai's Al Arabiya wrote that Chávez said to a throng of reporters at the OPEC summit, "For a while now, I have needed to go to the bathroom and I am going to pee ... Do you want me to pee on you?"[14]

Two weeks after the event, Chile's President Michelle Bachelet revealed that she had politely requested that Chávez abstain from making some statements at the summit, indicating frankly that she felt "let down" by the subsequent discussions at the OPEC meeting, considering the effect that the price of oil has on countries like Chile.[15] Also just weeks after the incident, Chávez was "accused of breaking a protocol accord" with Colombia's President Uribe and "exhaust[ing] his Colombian counterpart's patience by speaking out of turn once too often", formally ending Chávez's mediation in hostage negotiations with the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group.[16] (Dialogue resumed later and the hostages were freed in January 2008.)

edit Popularity of phrase

Zapatero said he did not realise what a monumental moment it had been until he returned home and his eldest daughter greeted him with "¿Por qué no te callas?", which made them both laugh.[17]

The king's phrase gained cult slogan status, ringing from mobile phones, appearing on T-shirts, and used as a greeting. The domain,, had reached US$4,600 on eBay as of November 16, 2007.[18][19] The phrase became a YouTube sensation overnight, and a composer turned his words into new and amusing lyrics to a traditional Spanish song.[20] The phrase has spawned countless media articles, jokes, songs, video clips and even mobile phone ringtones that say "¿Por qué no te callas?" when the phone rings.[21] As of November 14, 2007, Google generated 665,000 webhits on the phrase and YouTube had 610 videos.[21] A young Miami entrepreneur is planning to make T-shirts, and market them on eBay, and the phrase has become a greeting among Venezuelans in Miami[19] and a slogan for Chavez opponents.[9] In Spain an estimated 500,000 people have downloaded the phrase as a ringtone, generating €1.5 million (US$2 million) in sales.[22]

Less than 24 hours after the event, the king's words were used by the sports commentators during the radio transmission of Spanish language football games to describe controversial events. A contest for the best audiovisual depiction of the event was announced in Spain.[23] The Cincinnati Enquirer editorial page suggested that the phrase will have the power to change the course of history, similar to Ronald Reagan's, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"[24]

The Los Angeles Times says "the Spanish-speaking world can hardly stop talking about [the incident]", which provided "fodder for satirists from Mexico City to Madrid".[10] The reaction was apparent "in newspaper headlines, cable television and on YouTube. His phrase was reproduced on T-shirts, and cellphone ring tones. In Mexico City, the dust-up became a satirical skit, "El Chabo del 8." In El Salvador's capital, the phrase became a playful greeting."[10] The Sydney Morning Herald reported the king could earn a multimillion-euro business if he claimed rights over the phrase, which generated a Benny Hill-style skit and a Nike ad, "Juan do it. Just shut up", with the Brazilian football star, Ronaldinho.[25] Canada's CBC News said an actor's voice was used to mimic the king's voice in the ringtone to avoid legal problems over the use of the phrase, which has also generated sales of coffee mugs.[26]

Venezuelan university students, who have been involved in bitter protests against the Chávez government, "have adopted [it] as their chant".[27] T-shirts in Venezuela have the slogan with the "NO" in capital letters, representing a call to vote against reforms to expand Chávez's power in the December 2007 constitutional referendum[28] and the phrase was used as a taunt when more than 100,000 marched in protest against Chávez's proposed constitutional changes.[29]

In Argentina, a television programme called "Por que no te callas" began broadcast on December 6, 2007.[30]

edit Alternative forms

According to Fundéu, the Urgent Spanish Foundation,[31] and the Director of the Chilean Academy of the Spanish Language,[32] the phrase uttered by the king, given the situation under which it was said, should be written with exclamation marks instead of question marks: ¡Por qué no te callas! Alternatively, it could be written using a combination of both exclamation and question marks: ¡¿Por qué no te callas?! or ¿¡Por qué no te callas!?

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