Political controversy as former king Juan Carlos quits Spain
Catalan president denounces "monumental scandal" and criticizes Spanish government
The scandal-ridden trajectory of Juan Carlos I took an unexpected turn on Monday as the former king announced that he was leaving Spain to protect the image of the monarchy, now embodied by his son, Felipe VI.
According to news reports, the king emeritus will establish his place of residence in the Dominican Republic.
Under judicial scrutiny for his alleged role in a scheme involving payments from Saudi Arabia and a bank account in Switzerland, Juan Carlos did not explicitly cite his legal troubles in a farewell letter to his son made public on Monday afternoon, referring to them rather as "personal matters."
Already an unpopular figure in Catalonia, Juan Carlos’ decision to leave Spain sparked renewed criticism against the crown, paired with reproaches to the Spanish government for not doing enough to prevent the former king from "fleeing justice."
"It’s a monumental scandal," said Catalan president Quim Torra via Twitter, who accused the Socialists and Podemos, the two parties forming a left-wing coalition government, of "knowing [Juan Carlos’] flight plans for weeks and not doing anything to stop him."
I el Govern espanyol del PSOE i PODEMOS fa setmanes que coneixia els plans de fuga i no ha fet res per a impedir-ho. És un escàndol monumental. https://t.co/Mr5rGKbEwS— Quim Torra i Pla (@QuimTorraiPla) August 3, 2020
Unidas Podemos leader and Spanish vice president Pablo Iglesias has denied any knowledge of the former king’s plans, and said "a democratic government can’t look elsewhere" when faced with what he described as a "fraud to justice."
La huida al extranjero de Juan Carlos de Borbón es una actitud indigna de un ex Jefe del Estado y deja a la monarquía en una posición muy comprometida. Por respeto a la ciudadanía y a la democracia española, Juan Carlos I debería responder por sus actos en España y ante su pueblo— Pablo Iglesias 🔻 (@PabloIglesias) August 3, 2020
Spanish president and Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez made no public statement regarding the former king’s decision. Sources from the Spanish government said they "respected" the move and praised Felipe VI for his "transparency."
The vice president of the Catalan government, Pere Aragonès, compared the situation of Juan Carlos with that of Catalan politicians who went into exile to avoid incarceration for their role in the 2017 independence bid: "While some go into exile for defending democracy and calling a referendum, others do it because they’re corrupt, like Juan Carlos I."