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Archive for March, 2012

In recent weeks King Juan Carlos met with top Spanish business leaders — including executives from Spanish giants Santander, Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria and Telefonica — and urged them to act fast in favor of job creation.

Spain’s unemployment rate is hovering above 20 percent and climbing. The informal economy accounts for some of that. Still, the King told the assembled group: “The situation is very serious.”

2011 Protest at the Spanish Embassy in London
Credit: Blanca Garcia Gil

Click here to see the El Pais front page from last Sunday.

Click here and here for more perspective on Spanish economic troubles from The Economist.

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Spain’s Audiencia Nacional (National Court) has ordered members of the rock group Ardor de Estomago to pay about $1,000 for insulting King Juan Carlos, according to dpa, the German press agency.

A recent article said the group recorded a song calling the the King a “bastard” and “disgusting dictator.” Members performed the song in 2009 at a festival in Segovia, but the city’s mayor denies being aware of the lyrics.

A nationalist organization brought the charges, the article said.

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On Thursday King Juan Carlos visited the Bosnian community of Mostar to dedicate a Plaza and monument to Spanish service members who participated and died in the peacekeeping mission. More than 40,000 soldiers and civil guards served in Bosnia  and Herzegovina over the past two decades under NATO and the European Union flags, the Royal Household said.

This week His Majesty also handed out the journalism awards named in his honor and the Don Quijote prize for the best Spanish language journalistic work. Writers and broadcasters from the Iberian Peninsula and Latin America are eligible. Queen Sofia was on hand.

© Casa de S.M. el Rey / Borja Fotógrafos

Plus, the King is scheduled to visit Chile in June, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy confirmed, according to The Santiago Times.

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King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia traveled to the southwestern port city of Cadiz to celebrate the bicentennial of the so-called Cadiz Constitution, also known as “La Pepa.” While only in place intermittently for a handful of years, the Cadiz Constitution represents Spain’s first true attempt at a modern Constitutional system of government. King Juan Carlos called it one of the most important episodes in Spanish history.

“We render tribute to Cadiz and its Courts, the decisive link en the struggle for the liberation of the homeland and a symbol of the collective enterprise that benefited Spain, Latin America and also the rest of Europe,” the monarch said to strong applause.

© Casa de S.M. el Rey / Borja Fotógrafos

Click here for RTVE’s coverage.

Click here for the Latin American Herald Tribune’s coverage.

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For many people, especially Americans, royalty is a thing of the past. Critics call it an expensive and unnecessary anachronism. In Spain, however, it was the vehicle for long lasting Democracy.

In some ways, King Juan Carlos can be called Spain’s George Washington. As dictator Francisco Franco’s handpicked successor, Juan Carlos rose to the Spanish throne in 1975 with wide powers. He swore to continue Franco’s post-Civil War authoritarian movement, which managed to survive the fall of fascism elsewhere in Europe. However, almost immediately upon taking office, he began the process of democratization and national reconciliation. The King not only gave up power, but also used his hard-earned prestige to secure the success of the democratic experiment.

King Juan Carlos faced skepticism and hostility from the right and the left. His own father, Don Juan de Borbon y Battenberg, the exiled rightful dynastic heir to the Spanish throne, had doubts about his son’s democratizing intentions and was often uncomfortable about Juan Carlos’ relationship with Franco. On the other end of the ideological spectrum were the military and Franco’s cronies, determined to protect the hard-line regime. In the end, the King gained the acceptance of the left, the love of many in the middle and managed to neutralize the far right, despite several coup attempts.

King Juan Carlos has ruled Spain for more than 35 years, most of which under a Constitution he helped promulgate with popular support. The path to the throne started when he was just a boy, after his father sent him to Spain to be educated under Franco, hoping it would help lead to a restoration of the monarchy under the Bourbon dynasty. The plan came close to failing several times. In fact, it was often more of an improvised gamble than a well thought out plan. It was Juan Carlos who made it work. Historian Paul Preston, author of Juan Carlos: Steering Spain from Dictatorship to Democracy, says the King was often the only reason Democracy survived.

In his book, Preston quotes a Spanish commentator who said, “Whilst we Spaniards thought we deserved something better than a king, it turns out that we have a king we don’t deserve.” Because of their commitment to pluralistic politics and their warm relationship with the citizenry, the Spanish royals enjoy strong approval ratings. Spain went through several false starts toward Democracy and much bloodshed in the process. King Juan Carlos was the leader who made it stick.

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