“Porque no te callas?”

Well, that was interesting:

SANTIAGO: Spain’s king Juan Carlos I told Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez to “just shut up,” bringing an Ibero-American summit to end in spectacular fashion on Saturday.

Spain’s monarch stormed out just before the scheduled end of the forum, visibly furious at Chavez’s description of his former PM as a “fascist” and for launching a wide-ranging tirade that could not be stopped.

The dispute was a dramatic finale for the 17th meeting of the heads of state and government of Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries in Latin America, and Spain, Portugal and Andorra, which started on Thursday.

[Chavez’s] description of Spain’s former conservative PM Jose-Maria Aznar as a “fascist” prompted current PM Jose-Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, a socialist, to call on Chavez to show more “respect.” But Chavez forged on, and on Saturday he repeated the contentious f-word in relation to Aznar, adding: “A fascist isn’t human, a snake is more human than a fascist.” An irate king Juan Carlos then stepped in, demanding of Chavez: “Why don’t you just shut up?”

Aparently Chavez was talking over (current, Socialist) Spanish PM Zapata in a wide-ranging attack on (former, conservative) Spanish PM Jose Aznar. There was an attempt to turn off his microphone, but you don’t stop Hugo Chavez when he’s on a roll.

The King’s comment may have been (if I understand correctly, and maybe I don’t) more insulting in Spanish Spanish than in Venezuelan Spanish, because he used the “tu” form. In much of Latin America that’s no big deal, but in Spain (I’m told) it’s only used for close friends, children and animals. So “porque no te callas” is very much de haut en bas.

Unsurprisingly, the Venezuelan media has lined up behind Hugo, and the Spanish — even the leftish El Pais –behind the King; around the world, conservatives are high-fiving, while socialists are fuming that Chavez is a democratically elected leader, who should not be shushed by a hereditary monarch.

Comment threads on this tend to spiral into “Chavez is a dictator!” “No he isn’t!” and “You know, the King was chosen by Franco, but he actually helped end fascism in Spain.” So let’s take the first two as not being very useful, and the last as given. Is this just an amusing break in Iberian good manners, or is there anything deeper here?