CARACAS AND PALMA
VENEZUELA'S President Hugo Chavez said on Sunday that he would like to give King Juan Carlos of Spain a hug when he visits him at Marivent Palace in Palma this Friday, but the outspoken leader, referring to a diplomatic spat last year, said he will not shut up while hinting that, because the King was not going to be in Madrid, he may not have time for the meeting.
King Juan Carlos sparked a furor in November by shouting Why don't you shut up? at Chavez when he tried to interrupt a speech by Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero at the Ibero-American summit in Chile.
Ties have improved since then and the Spanish government said last week that Chavez will meet the king during his visit to Spain this week.
I'd like to give the king a hug, but you know, Juan Carlos, that I am not going to shut up, a smiling Chavez said on his weekly television show Hello President before setting off to Russia for the first leg of his tour.
We will keep talking for ourselves, for a just and equal world, the left-wing president said.
The king's November outburst made headlines around the world, spawning songs, jokes and even a ringtone for mobile phones.
Chavez threatened to review diplomatic and business ties with Venezuela's former colonial power, a major investor in the region.
Despite ongoing tensions over Europe's immigration policies, tempers have now calmed and Chavez referred to the king as an old friend, during a meeting with the Spanish prime minister at a summit in Peru in May.
Chavez, will be making his first visit to Spain since the spat and, despite having thrown the talks into doubt, will travel to Madrid to meet Zapatero after holding talks with the King on Friday.
A spokesperson for the Spanish Foreign Ministry yesterday confirmed that Chavez will be coming to Palma as planned to be received by King Juan Carlos at Marivent Palace on Friday morning.
Chavez headed to Moscow yesterday to shop for air defense systems, submarines and other weaponry as Latin America's arms race quickens amid signs that his regional influence is waning. He will order $2 billion worth of weapons, including Project 636 diesel subs, Mi-28 combat helicopters and airplanes made by Ilyushin Co., the Russian newspaper Kommersant reported, without saying how it obtained the information. The Russian Interfax news service, citing an unnamed defense ministry official, said yesterday that Chavez may order $1 billion of weapons, including three Varshavyanka subs and up to 20 Tor-M1 air-defense systems.