The Spanish government’s official spokeswoman rebuked Spain’s disgraced former king Juan Carlos on Monday, saying that he should have used his first trip home from exile to clear the air over investigations into his financial affairs – and to also apologise.
Spokeswoman Isabel Rodríguez said the ex-monarch ‘missed an opportunity’ to ‘provide explanations and ask for forgiveness’ and that his conduct in recent years had been ‘neither ethical nor exemplary’. She was speaking during an interview with Spanish public broadcaster RNE.
Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has also previously said that Juan Carlos owes the people of Spain an explanation about his financial affairs.
During the radio interview on Monday, Rodríguez also reiterated the socialist PSOE-led coalition government’s support for Juan Carlos’ son and current monarch, Felipe VI, for his efforts to increase financial transparency at the royal household.
‘Felipe VI is doing a great job to restore transparency, which is essential for any state institution,’ Rodríguez said.
Her comments came as Juan Carlos made what was called a private visit to the Zarzuela royal palace in Madrid on Monday to meet with Felipe, after four days attending a regatta with friends at the coastal city of Sanxenxo in Galicia in the north-west of Spain. He flew by private jet from Galicia to Madrid.
Juan Carlos, 84, was warmly welcomed by a group of well-wishers as the car carrying him drove up to the official royal residence shortly after 10am, as shown by national broadcaster RTVE [see video in Tweet below].
Ahead of the visit and speaking after winning a regatta with the crew aboard the Bribón racing yacht, he told journalists in Sanxenxo that he was looking forward to the meeting with his son and expected that there would be ‘much embracing’.
The controversial former monarch had made only brief, off-the-cuff remarks to the media during his visit to Sanxenxo.
‘Explanations? What about?’ he replied curtly when asked by journalists outside the yachting club if he would try to clarify the situation when he met his son.
The former monarch’s return to Spain this week – which came after Spanish and Swiss prosecutors shelved investigations involving his finances – sparked days of debate across Spain.
Members of the coalition government called on Juan Carlos to address the allegations of financial wrongdoing that have long dogged him. ‘The public would like to receive explanations for everything that has happened,’ said Justice Minister Pilar Llop.
The left-wing Podemos group, the government’s junior coalition partner, went much further, expressing outrage over his visit.
‘Anyone who returned to our country with the history of king Juan Carlos I would be arrested as soon as they crossed the border and brought to justice. Justice is not the same for everyone. The monarchy is an institution designed to commit crime,’ it tweeted.
Others, however, praised the former monarch, who helped steer Spain back to democracy following the death of dictator Franco in 1975. The mayor of Madrid, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, a member of the right-wing People’s Party (PP), described the work carried out by Juan Carlos for Spain as ‘extraordinary’.
He said: ‘I have no problem acknowledging that work, saluting king Juan Carlos and welcoming his return.’
Juan Carlos was due to fly back to Abu Dhabi on Monday afternoon following the meeting with Felipe, 54, his wife Letizia, 49, and other members of the royal family at the end of his five-day visit to Spain. According to media reports, the meeting at the palace, which was not listed on the official itinerary, included lunch.
Juan Carlos left Spain for exile on 4 August 2020, moving to live in Abu Dhabi. At the beginning of March this year, after all criminal proceedings relating to financial irregularities were dropped, he announced that he intended to remain in exile but to visit Spain from time to time.
The ex-king had not seen his estranged wife, Sofia, or his son since he fled to the UAE, dogged by allegations of corruption.
In a bid to try and restore the image of the monarchy, king Felipe VI has sought to distance himself from his father.
In March 2020, Felipe ended his father’s annual palace allowance, worth a reported 200,000 euros, and renounced his own claim on what he would have inherited from the king emeritus.
Last month, he and the government took steps to increase the transparency of the monarchy, via a decree requiring the palace to publish its budget and make tenders public.
It also means the royal accounts will be audited, that senior palace officials must declare their personal wealth on taking up and leaving a post, and that gifts given to royals will be catalogued.
Juan Carlos is planning to visit Spain again in June, signalling that the vigorous debate sparked by his return is unlikely to fade soon.
On Friday, Sanxenxo Mayor Telmo Martín said the former king was already planning a second visit to the town next month. ‘He confirmed to me that he is going to attend the Sailing World Championship, which starts 10 June and runs to 18 June,’ he told reporters.
Juan Carlos I se encuentra reunido con Felipe VI en La Zarzuela. Tras la visita, volverá este lunes a su residencia en Abu Dabi, si bien se espera que pueda regresar el próximo 10 de junio.https://t.co/giEZJd4qwp— RTVE Noticias (@rtvenoticias) May 23, 2022
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