Share this article

print logo

Spain united in outrage at king's secret safari

In one fell swoop, King Juan Carlos of Spain has managed to unite right and left, young and old, those with jobs and those without in universal outrage over his tone-deaf African hunting safari.

As Spain foundered amid economic woes, what did the 74-year-old monarch do? He slipped away to hunt elephants in southern Africa. Let's count the ways that miscalculation of elephantine proportions has turned into a public relations disaster:

*A lavish trip amid severe economic pain at home -- Interest rates for Spanish bonds have risen alarmingly in recent days, with fears mounting that the country could be the next in Europe to need a bailout. Not exactly the right time to go on an exotic holiday that one major newspaper estimated could cost twice a Spanish worker's average annual wages. Spain is also struggling with 23 percent unemployment -- the highest in the 17-nation eurozone -- which soars to nearly 50 percent for young workers. "Awful. I think what the king did is awful," said Angelica Diaz, a 70-year-old homemaker pushing a baby stroller in Madrid. "Because of the lack of solidarity with people here who are going hungry. What he did is wrong. He has to show more humanity."

*A secret trip that even the government did not know about -- This particular trip -- it is not clear if taxpayer money was used -- only became public when the king stumbled and fell before dawn Friday at his bungalow in Botswana and fractured his right hip, forcing an emergency flight home and hip replacement surgery. The El Mundo newspaper said the king had not told Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's government of his trip abroad.

*A trip that just adds to royal family gaffes -- Juan Carlos' family has been in the news lately -- for all the wrong reasons. The king's son-in-law Inaki Urdangarin is a suspect in a corruption case, accused of using his position to embezzle several million euros in public contracts through a not-for-profit foundation he ran. Over Easter, the king's 13-year-old grandson shot himself in the foot with a shotgun, even though by law in Spain you must be 14 to handle a gun. The boy's father could face a fine.

*A trip that even outraged longtime supporters -- The conservative newspaper El Mundo said the king has done a lot for Spain, especially overseeing its transition to democracy after the death of longtime dictator Gen. Francisco Franco in 1975. But its lead editorial on Sunday read "An irresponsible trip at the worst possible time."

*A trip that blasts a hole in the king's conservation credentials -- The king is an honorary president of the Spanish branch of the World Wildlife Fund -- which could raise questions about why an alleged conservation enthusiast is killing some of the most intelligent animals on the planet.