"Mr King, did you know about the coup d'etat against Venezuela, against the democratic, legitimate government of Venezuela in 2002?" Chavez said to reporters in Chile.

 

"It's very hard to imagine the Spanish ambassador would have been at the presidential palace supporting the coup-plotters without authorisation from his majesty."

 

'Shut up!'

 

The spat began on Saturday when Chavez accused Jose Maria Aznar, the former Spanish prime minister, of backing the 2002 coup and repeatedly called him "fascist" in an address at the Ibero-American summit of leaders from Latin America, Spain and Portugal.

 

"Fascists are not human. A snake is more human," Chavez had said on Saturday.

 

Spain's current socialist prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, urged Chavez to be more diplomatic and show respect for other leaders despite political differences.

 

"President Hugo Chavez, I think there is an essential principle to dialogue, and that is, to respect and be respected, we should be careful not to fall into insults," Zapatero said.

 

Chavez continued to interrupt as Zapatero spoke, although his microphone was turned off.

 

A frustrated Spanish monarch, seated next to Zapatero, then leant towards Chavez and loudly said: "Why don't you shut up?" before leaving the chamber.

 

The incident comes weeks before a
divisive charter referendum [AFP]

"They told me some Spanish officials grabbed him by the arm, because he's strong and tall. He acted like an angry bull" as he stormed out, Chavez recalled in comments published Sunday by Spain's El Mundo newspaper. "I'm no bullfighter - but ole!"

 

Chavez, who faces violent protests at home against a proposed constitutional reform package that would greatly boost his power, said the incident had been exaggerated by the media.

 

"I hope this will not damage relations," Chavez said as he left his Santiago hotel room on Sunday. "But I think it's imprudent for a king to shout at a president to shut up."

 

"Mr King, we are not going to shut up," he said.

 

The Spanish ambassador did meet with Carmona and his newly appointed foreign minister on April 13, 2002, hours before Chavez was restored to power following massive demonstrations.

 

Show of support

 

Chavez supporters spoke up again over the weekend, this time against the Spanish king.

 

Al Jazeera's Lucia Newman said a rally in Caracas called to show support for Chavez's constitutional reform proposals turned into an emotional demonstration to applaud the war of words with the Spanish monarch.

 

A demonstrator said: "He's insolent. He has to respect a sovereign leader. The king is just a monarch and Spain has been sacking the people of Latin America for the past 500 years.

 

"President Chavez has more right to say what he pleases than the king because he was elected by the Venezuelan people.

 

"The king showed a total lack of respect. He wasn't at a nursery school, he was at a summit."

 

Opponents say their outspoken president should be gagged but the incident appears to have increased his popularity among those who elected him.

 

The incident comes at a politically sensitive time - three weeks before the controversial constitutional referendum that has polarised Venezuela – and Chavez will be welcoming the increased popularity among supporters.