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

¿Por qué no te callas? (English: "Why don't you [just] shut up?") is a phrase that was uttered by King Juan Carlos I of Spain to Hugo Chávez, President of Venezuela, at the 2007 Ibero-American Summit in Santiago, Chile, when Chávez was interrupting Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero's speech. 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.

Contents

Incident

At the meeting on 10 November 2007, Chávez repeatedly interrupted the speech of the Spanish Prime Minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, to call the 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.[1][2]

Chávez's attacks became so strong 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 former Spanish Prime Minister. King Juan Carlos I leaned forward, turned towards Chávez, and said "¿Por qué no te callas?"[1] He used the informal te (Spanish accusative/dative pronoun for ) rather than the formal se (reflexive pronoun for usted).

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, as never before had the king displayed such anger in public.[4]

According to Time magazine, what may have motivated Chávez was that Zapatero—of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party—"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 was part of an annus horribilis for the royal image.[5]

The New York Times analyzed the incident, arguing that it exposed "the unendingly complicated relations between Spain and its former colonies."[6]

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 attempted 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, where Spain has been the main investor and trade partner in the last decade.[7]

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.[8]

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.[9] 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.[9] Spanish diplomats are concerned that Chávez may replace his anti-Americanism with attacks on what he calls "Spanish imperialism".[10] 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."[10] The Spanish foreign ministry denied that the "¿Por qué no te callas?" incident was indicative of Spanish-Latin American relations.[10] 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."[9]

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",[11] 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.[11] 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 facts that the 1978 constitution that preserved monarchy had been approved by a referendum, and the key role played by the king in putting down an attempted military coup in 1981, were not mentioned.[11]

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.[11]

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 have asked the assembled heads of state: 'Why don't you speak up?'"[12]

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 should not 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.[13] In a followup at the OPEC summit, Reuters wrote that "Spain's king cannot shut Chavez up but bladder can",[14] 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?"[15]

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.[16] 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.[17] (Dialogue resumed later and the hostages were freed in January 2008.)

Popularity of phrase

Zapatero said he did not realize 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.[18]

The king's phrase gained cult slogan status, ringing from mobile phones, appearing on T-shirts, and being used as a greeting. The domain, porquenotecallas.com, had reached US$4,600 on eBay as of 16 November 2007.[19][20] The phrase became a YouTube sensation overnight, and a composer turned his words into new and amusing lyrics to a traditional Spanish song.[21] 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.[22] As of 14 November 2007, Google generated 665,000 webhits on the phrase and YouTube had 610 videos.[22] Entrepreneurs in Florida and Texas put the slogan on T-shirts, and marketed them on eBay and elsewhere;[6] the phrase has become a greeting among Venezuelan expats in Miami and Spain[20] and a slogan for Chávez opponents.[10][23] In Spain an estimated 500,000 people have downloaded the phrase as a ringtone, generating €1.5 million (US$2 million) in sales.[24]

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.[25] The Cincinnati Enquirer editorial page suggested that the phrase will have the power to change the course of history, as did Ronald Reagan's, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"[26]

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".[11] 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."[11] 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.[27] 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.[28] The infamous phrase was also referred to in a comic song called "Baila el Chiki-chiki", Spain's contribution to Eurovision 2008, and in the song "La Plata", by the Brazilian pop-rock band Jota Quest.

Protestors against the Chávez government have adopted the phrase as their slogan;[23] 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[29] and the phrase was used as a taunt when more than 100,000 marched in protest against Chávez's proposed constitutional changes.[30]

In Argentina, a television programme called "Por que no te callas" began broadcasting on 6 December 2007.[31]

Alternative forms

According to Fundéu, the Urgent Spanish Foundation,[32] and the Director of the Chilean Academy of the Spanish language,[33] 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!?

References

  1. ^ a b c d "Shut up, Spain king tells Chavez". BBC. 10 November 2007. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7089131.stm. Retrieved 9 November 2007. 
  2. ^ a b c Padgett, Tim (12 November 2007). "Behind the King's Rebuke to Chávez". Time. http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1682967,00.html?imw=Y. Retrieved 14 November 2007. 
  3. ^ (Spanish) "El Rey Don Juan Carlos a Hugo Chávez: "¿Por qué no te callas?"". Antena 3. 11 November 2007. http://www.antena3.com/a3noticias/servlet/Noticias?destino=../a3n/noticia/noticia.jsp&sidicom=si&id=13286798. Retrieved 11 November 2007. 
  4. ^ (Spanish) Tabar, Carmen (10 November 2007). "Nunca se había visto al Rey tan enfadado en público". El Periódico de Catalunya. http://www.elperiodico.com/default.asp?idpublicacio_PK=46&idioma=CAS&idnoticia_PK=457570&idseccio_PK=1007. Retrieved 10 November 2007. 
  5. ^ (Spanish) "El “annus horribilis” del Rey Juan Carlos". La Nación (Chile). 15 November 2007. http://www.lanacion.cl/prontus_noticias_v2/site/artic/20071115/pags/20071115203346.html. Retrieved 17 February 2008. 
  6. ^ a b Romero, Simon (25 November 2007). "When a Mother Country Tells Its Kid, ‘Shut Up’". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/25/weekinreview/25romero.html. Retrieved 26 February 2008. 
  7. ^ (Spanish) "Chávez carga contra el Rey y avisa de que revisará las relaciones con España". El País. 15 November 2007. http://www.elpais.com/articulo/espana/Chavez/carga/Rey/avisa/revisara/relaciones/Espana/elpepiesp/20071115elpepinac_2/Tes. Retrieved 15 November 2007. 
  8. ^ (Spanish) "Moratinos afirma que "lo último que debe hacerse" es llamar al embajador a consultas". El País. 15 November 2007. http://www.elpais.com/articulo/espana/Moratinos/afirma/ultimo/debe/hacerse/llamar/embajador/consultas/elpepuesp/20071115elpepunac_3/Tes. Retrieved 15 November 2007. 
  9. ^ a b c "Chávez Threatens to Reconsider Venezuela’s Ties With Spain". Reuters (New York Times). 15 November 2007. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/15/world/americas/15venez.html?ref=world. Retrieved 16 November 2007. 
  10. ^ a b c d Crawford, Leslie Crawford (15 November 2007). "Juan Carlos' words conquer the net". Financial Times. MSNBC. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21822492/. Retrieved 16 November 2007. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f Kraul, Chris (17 November 2007). "King's words to Chavez start a battle royal". Los Angeles Times. http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-chavez17nov17,1,7510496.story?coll=la-headlines-world. Retrieved 17 November 2007. 
  12. ^ Jackson Diehl, "Silencing Venezuela's President a Royal Task", 21 November 2007, syndicated in the Albuquerque Journal, p. A9.
  13. ^ "Chavez's OPEC Speech Spurs Rebuke From Saudi King". The Wall Street Journal. 17 November 2007. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB119532579754096997.html?mod=googlenews_wsj. Retrieved 20 November 2007. 
  14. ^ "Spain's king cannot shut Chavez up but bladder can". Reuters. 19 November 2007. http://uk.reuters.com/article/oddlyEnoughNews/idUKN1947231020071119. Retrieved 20 November 2007. 
  15. ^ "After Spanish King tells Venezuelan leader to "shut up": I need to "pee," Chavez says at OPEC summit". Al Arabiya. 20 November 2007. http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2007/11/20/41896.html. Retrieved 20 November 2007. 
  16. ^ "Bachelet also asked Chavez, (politely) to shut up". MercoPress. 23 November 2007. http://www.mercopress.com/vernoticia.do?id=11957&formato=HTML. Retrieved 23 November 2007. 
  17. ^ Hudson, Saul (22 November 2007). "Colombian mediation failure hurts talkative Chavez". Reuters. http://www.reuters.com/article/politicsNews/idUSN2224925520071122?sp=true. Retrieved 23 November 2007. 
  18. ^ (Spanish) Hermoso, Borja. Aznar a Zapatero: "Tú eres el presidente, me llamas cuando quieras". El País, 13 November 2007. Retrieved on 15 November 2007.
  19. ^ "Regal "Shut Up" Becomes a Cult Ringtone". cellular-news.com. 16 November 2007. http://www.cellular-news.com/story/27491.php. Retrieved 16 November 2007. 
  20. ^ a b Corral, Oscar (13 November 2007). "Spanish king's retort to Chávez strikes chord". Miami Herald (The Seattle Times). http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2004017429_ringtone16.html. Retrieved 16 November 2007. 
  21. ^ Sanchez, Marcela (16 November 2007). "'Why Don't You Shut Up?' Chavez's antagonistic antics have their limit". Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/15/AR2007111501455.html. Retrieved 16 November 2007. 
  22. ^ a b (Spanish) Ahora nadie se calla. BBC Mundo, 14 November 2007. Retrieved on 15 November 2007.
  23. ^ a b Viewpoints: Chavez and King row. BBC News, 16 November 2007. Retrieved on 17 November 2007.
  24. ^ 'Shut up' Chavez is ringtone hit. BBC News, 19 November 2007. Retrieved on 19 November 2007.
  25. ^ (Spanish) "Tono de la frase "¿por qué no te callas?" arrasa en politonías de celulares". El Universal (Caracas). 16 November 2007. http://buscador.eluniversal.com/2007/11/13/cyt_ava_tono-de-la-frase-p_13A1191237.shtml. Retrieved 16 November 2007. 
  26. ^ Cooklis, Ray (23 November 2007). "Royal message to petty dictator: Just shut up" (subscription). The Cincinnati Enquirer. Cincinnati, Ohio: Gannett Company. p. 8B. http://docs.newsbank.com/openurl?ctx_ver=z39.88-2004&rft_id=info:sid/iw.newsbank.com:NewsBank:CEQB&rft_val_format=info:ofi/fmt:kev:mtx:ctx&rft_dat=11D5A7BEB47FB668&svc_dat=InfoWeb:aggregated5&req_dat=0D0CB579A3BDA420. Retrieved 23 November 2007. "History provides us with many examples of famous catch-phrases - the right words, uttered at just the right time - that have shown the power to change the course of events: ... Reagan's 'Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.' Someday soon, we may be able to add to this list the blunt suggestion, already a hot Internet buzz-phrase and cell-phone ring tone, by an exasperated King Juan Carlos I to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez during a recent summit in Chile: "Why don't you shut up?"" 
  27. ^ "Royal outburst now a nasty little earner". The Sydney Morning Herald. 20 November 2007. http://www.smh.com.au/news/world/why-dont-you-shut-up/2007/11/19/1195321697277.html. Retrieved 20 November 2007. 
  28. ^ "'King of Spain' tells half a million callers to 'shut up': New, insulting ringtone a smash hit in Spain". CBC News. 19 November 2007. http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2007/11/19/spain-ringtone.html. Retrieved 20 November 2007. 
  29. ^ "'Shut up' Chavez a ringtone hit". CNN. 19 November 2007. http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/americas/11/19/spain.shutup.ap/index.html?iref=newssearch. Retrieved 20 November 2007. 
  30. ^ "100,000 march against Hugo Chavez reforms". London: Times Online. 30 November 2007. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article2976631.ece. Retrieved 30 November 2007. 
  31. ^ (Spanish) "El "¿por qué no te callas?" del rey Juan Carlos I, en la TV argentina". La Flecha. 5 December 2007. http://www.laflecha.net/canales/comunicacion/noticias/el-por-que-no-te-callas-del-rey-juan-carlos-i-en-la-tv-argentina/. Retrieved 12 January 2008. 
  32. ^ (Spanish) "¡Por qué no te callas!". Fundéu. http://www.fundeu.es/Consultas.aspx?frmOpcion=CONSULTA&frmFontSize=2&frmIdConsulta=690. Retrieved 20 November 2007. 
  33. ^ (Spanish) ""En chileno la frase del rey Juan Carlos sería: ¡por qué no te callái vo!"". Las Últimas Noticias. 19 November 2007. http://www.lun.com/modulos/catalogo/paginas/2007/11/19/LUCPRDI02LU1911.htm?tipoPantalla=1024. Retrieved 20 November 2007. 

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