The Babalunians are rejoicing, albeit cynically, because King Juan Carlos of Spain and Socialist President José Luís Rodríguez Zapatero stood up to Hugo Chávez at the Ibero-American Summit in Santiago, Chile. Well, even if they are doing so for the wrong reasons, they are still right to rejoice. All freedom-loving Cubans should rejoice when the chief of state and head of government of a kindred people give a public demonstration of dignity in the face of bullying and provocation, completely unexpected from either party but highly satisfactory in both cases. The king's rebuke, "¡Por qué no te callas!" [Why don't you shut up!], was addressed in the familiar "tú," which in Spanish is reserved for close friends, children and menials. We know that Juan Carlos is not Chávez's "friend." Chávez certainly is the Spanish president's, but even Zapatero felt compelled to give his Venezuelan counterpart a much-needed lesson in manners and diplomatic etiquette, which is sure to go unheeded.
In 1992, the 500th anniversary of Columbus' discovery, Castro condemned Spain as the artifex of all of Latin America's woes (prior to the founding of the United States) and declared himself a spiritual Indian. No one in Spain remonstrated against Castro. Perhaps they were actually happy that Castro had picked up the banner of the Black Legend because no one was less fit to carry it than a gallego turned "spiritual Indian" who had re-colonized Cuba as his own private fiefdom.
It was quite another thing for Chávez to start singling out Spanish "fascists" in the presence of Juan Carlos and Zapatero: the one a felicitious creation of Franco's (the "son" that Franco never had and for whom he displaced Juan Carlos' first-cousin, the Duke of Cadiz, father of Franco's great-grandsons, as heir to the Spanish throne) and the other the beneficiary of Franco's decision to bequeath democracy to his country. Zapatero is no less a creature of Franco's (one of the the "demon children" of reason's sleep, as another gallego put it), even if, unlike Aznar, he disclaims the connection. In fact, in his revanchist policies and exploitation of national divisions for his own benefit, Zapatero is more of a "fascist" than Franco ever was and certainly more than Aznar. (As a historical footnote, if Castro had attended the Summit, he would have been the only other leader there besides Juan Carlos who decreed national mourning when Generalissimo Franco died).
The King and Zapatero's indignation at Chávez's continuous and calculated allusions to former prime minister Aznar as a "fascist" shows, also, that they are not amused by the more apish caricature of the original simian, and that whatever it was that made Castro personally immune to such desplantes (literally, knocking someone off his feet unexpectedly), Chávez, much as he tries to emulate him, has not quite hit on the right formula of arrogance and braggadocio, and Castro, who holds the patent, has either forgotten the right formula or is reluctant to share it with his overanxious disciple, who can do nothing lately but allude to Castro's imminent demise and is reciting eulogies over him while his body is still tepid. If Chávez weren't a generous tipper, Castro would surely take these maledictions as maledictions.
Would it be an exaggeration to say that this public slap — which must surely be only a slight indication of what has been said privately — was administered to the "heir apparent" in order that it should be passed around until it reaches his mentor? It is Castro, after all, whose work of hemispheric conflict and disunion Chávez is advancing, and Castro, too, whose involuntary absence at the summit put Chávez in command of the "progressive forces" there. Yes, it probably is a bit of an exaggeration. But we can be sure that if Castro had been there the King and Spanish prime minister would have been more circumspect if only from the fear that Castro would have tried to top Chávez, and Castro, of course, knows where all the dirty laundry is buried in Spain's history of the last 50 years.
Although he could not make it to the summit, Fidel would not have been Fidel if he had let this opportunity go by without at least trying to upstage everybody there. So, to everybody's surprise, except Carlos Lage's and Chávez's, Castro placed a cellphone call to Chávez while he was in the middle of his speech, which Chávez interrupted to take the call and relay a message of solidarity from Castro to the Chilean people. The Chileans present responded with sustained applause and cheers, finally breaking out, at Chávez's prodding, into a chant of "Fidel, Fidel, qué tiene Fidel, que los imperialistas no puden con él." ["Fidel, Fidel, what has he got, that has the imperialists in a knot"]. When he resumed his speech, Chávez, besides attacking Aznar as a "fascist," focused on the "abuses and crimes" of Spanish corporations in Latin America. He was echoed by Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega. Having had enough of this, King Juan Carlos retired from the conference table; but the host of the summit, Chilean President Bachelet, persuaded him to return for the closing ceremony.
Like Castro, Val and Henry condemn the Spanish people for the sins of their rulers, unconscious, of course, that others might use that as a pretext to condemn the Cuban people for Castro's doings. No, "unconscious" is not the right word; the Babalunians themselves lead the pack in blaming the Cuban people for things outside their control, including Castro's perpetuation in power. It would be better to say that the Babalunians condemn Spaniards for the sins of their leaders but do not give them credit when their leaders do the right thing. In that sense, they have picked up the banner of the Black Legend which Castro relinquished to Chávez and Ortega.