- The Washington Times - Monday, April 16, 2012

MADRID | King Juan Carlos of Spain 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, the 74-year-old monarch slipped away last week to hunt elephants in southern Africa. His safari has turned into a public relations disaster.

“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.”

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.

Spain is also struggling with 23 percent unemployment - the highest in the 17-nation eurozone - which soars to nearly 50 percent for young workers.

It is not clear if taxpayer money was used on the trip that 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 until after the accident.

“The prime minister must know at all times where the head of state is,” El Mundo said in an editorial.

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. He is accused of using his position to embezzle several million dollars 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.

El Mundo said the king has done a lot for Spain, especially overseeing its transition to democracy after the death of the longtime dictator, Gen. Francisco Franco, in 1975. But its lead editorial on Sunday read: “An irresponsible trip at the worst possible time.”

Juan Carlos should “admit his mistake and learn from what happened,” the paper said.

His father, widely known as Don Juan, never ruled as king. Juan Carlos‘ grandfather, Alfonso XIII, fled the country in 1931 after anti-monarchy parties won a local election.

The king was groomed by Franco to become head of state upon the dictator’s death, which ended four decades of right-wing rule.

Javier del Rey, a professor of political communications at Complutense University in Madrid, said the king could not have shown poorer lack of judgment with his elephant-hunting trip. He does not expect the king to abdicate, although he said it would be the “elegant” thing to do.

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