Almost two years after Spain's former king Juan Carlos fled abroad because of allegations of corruption, he is returning to his home country for a few days. In addition to close friends, he also meets his son. He seems anything but happy about his father's nonchalant behavior.
The reunion of the Spanish king Juan Carlos with his son and successor Felipe VI. at the end of the first home visit after almost two years took place in Madrid behind closed doors. The many journalists and cameramen from home and abroad who had positioned themselves in front of the Zarzuela Palace northwest of the capital only got to see on Monday how the car with the 84-year-old drove to the royal residence and the building in the evening left again after about eleven hours.
But most observers agreed, even without pictures and after a little meaningful communiqué from the royal family: the reunion was certainly anything but happy and relaxed. The newspaper "El País" wrote of a "climate of uneasiness". The royal house expert Fernando Ónega said on the state television channel RTVE that the course of the visit so far after the hasty farewell in summer 2020 had additionally "complicated" the situation. The "Reparation Operation" - as the media called the visit - went totally wrong.
Why? Government spokeswoman Isabel Rodríguez didn't mince words in the radio interview: Juan Carlos "missed an opportunity" to "ask for forgiveness" from the citizens and to "explain the actions of the past few years, which were neither ethical nor exemplary". Spokesmen for the coalition's junior partner, the party Unidas Podemos (UP), were even more drastic. "Juan Carlos laughs at all of us," it said.
You have to know that the public prosecutor's office had only stopped the years-long investigation into financial irregularities in March because Juan Carlos was either protected by his immunity as king until his abdication in June 2014, the crimes were statute-barred or he hastily paid back taxes in the millions. In the justification, however, prosecutors described the misconduct in minute detail and made it known to a broader public.
Juan Carlos spent the first four days of his five-day short visit with very close and wealthy sailing friends in the port of Sanxenxo in the north-west of the country. There and also in front of the Zarzuela Palace, he was celebrated by a few dozen fans with Spanish flags, cheers, applause and welcome posters. "Viva El Rey!" (Long live the king), they chanted. But that doesn't hide the fact that the former king drove most Spaniards mad with his openly displayed nonchalance. There were protests by hundreds against the visit. And even the star columnist for the pro-monarchy newspaper "El Mundo", Lucia Mendes, spoke plainly: "The last thing the royal family wanted was a circus like this." It is incomprehensible that some conservative politicians would protect Juan Carlos.
"El País" wrote that Felipe would have preferred it if Juan Carlos had taken a doctor's appointment as a reason for his visit and had behaved "more tactfully". The royal family fears that the visit to the monarchy will cause further image damage despite Felipe's virtuous behavior. "With his sailing excursions, seafood feasts and his cronies, Juan Carlos has become his son's worst enemy," RTVE said.
It's not as if Juan Carlos, who is in poor health and relies on a walking stick, didn't get a chance to make a clarifying statement in Spain. It was only on Sunday, after he had won a regatta with colleagues on the "Bribón" racing yacht, that a journalist asked him if he would explain something to his son on Monday. The old king's answer through the open window of the passenger seat caused a wave of indignation: "What should I explain?"
The reunion of the man who was head of state of Spain for almost 40 years with King Felipe and Queen Letizia and other family members was not on the king's official agenda. Felipe and Juan Carlos spoke "about family issues and various events and their impact on Spanish society," the royal family said. Accordingly, the old king could eventually move his residence back to Spain. His 83-year-old wife Sofía was unable to attend the meeting because of a corona infection. At around 10 p.m., the private jet with the old king on board took off for Abu Dhabi. He wants to come back on June 10 - but probably only to Sanxenxo, as Mayor Telmo Martín revealed. The friends stick by him.