Castro sides with Chavez in rift with Spanish king

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HAVANA, Nov 13 (Reuters) Cuban leader Fidel Castro, siding with ally Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, said today that the Spanish king's rebuke of Chavez over the weekend exposed his imperialist attitudes.

Spanish King Juan Carlos told Chavez to ''shut up'' on Saturday when the Venezuelan leader interrupted a speech by Spain's socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

The incident, at the end of a summit of leaders from Latin America, Spain, Portugal and Andorra over the weekend has been seen by Castro and Chavez as proof developed countries look down on the region.

''When the king of Spain in an abrupt way asked Chavez: 'Why don't you shut up?', in that instant, the hearts of all Latin America quivered,'' Castro, who has been sidelined by a serious illness, wrote in a commentary carried by state-run media.

''Saturday, November 10, 2007, will go down in history ... as the day of truth ... an ideological Waterloo,'' Castro said.

Castro has always spoken highly of King Juan Carlos despite the ups and down of Cuba's relations with Spain.

Those relations neared the breaking point when conservative Jose Maria Aznar was prime minister but have improved under Zapatero.

The exchange between the king and Chavez has been hotly discussed throughout Latin America and in Spain, and it has been repeatedly broadcast by Cuban media.

The king's rebuke of Chavez came as Zapatero was criticizing Chavez for calling Aznar a fascist, an especially inflammatory label in Spain where the 36-year dictatorship of Gen Francisco Franco was partly based on support from fascists.

The king then walked out of the meeting, though he later returned.

''There has never been a dialogue like that between heads of state and government, almost all of whom represented countries plundered for centuries by colonialism and imperialism,'' Castro said, adding, ''nothing else could have been more enlightening.'' The 81-year-old Cuban leader is recovering from a series of intestinal surgeries that forced him to temporarily hand over power to his brother Raul Castro in July 2006.

REUTERS SBC BD2240

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