Scandal reveals gulf between royals and ordinary Spaniards

The scandal involving Princess Cristina has highlighted the royal family’s privileged lifestyle during an economic crisis.

Note: This article is from the Guardian.


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Infanta Cristina scandal reveals gulf between royals and ordinary Spaniards” was written by John Hooper, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 7th January 2014 21.34 UTC

The news that the Infanta Cristina has been formally made a suspect in the investigation into her husband’s business dealings represents another swingeing blow to an already beleaguered royal family – one that, more perhaps than any other in Europe, needs to be above reproach if it is to survive.

However much Spaniards may warm to King Juan Carlos personally (and fewer have done so since he was pictured, rifle in hand, standing in front of a slaughtered elephant) they are seldom monarchists at heart. The bonds that once tied them to the Bourbons – never particularly strong – were fatally weakened in the 1920s when Juan Carlos’s grandfather, Alfonso XIII, connived at the installation of a military dictatorship.

Even those instinctively well-disposed towards monarchy have to acknowledge that the present king’s right to be head of state is open to dispute; Juan Carlos having taken over the job at the behest of another military dictator, Francisco Franco, even though his father was still alive.

A poll on Sunday by El Mundo found that only 41% of respondents supported the monarchy in general.

The head of the king’s household, Rafael Spottorno, has said the three-year inquiry into the affairs of princess Cristina and her husband Iñaki Urdangarin had become a “martyrdom”.

But what has made the scandal so damaging is that, like the king’s hideously ill-judged elephant hunt, it has highlighted the royal family’s privileged lifestyle when ordinary Spaniards are enduring a protracted economic crisis.

Even following a sharp drop in unemployment in December, 4.7 million people are without a job. And an estimated 350,000 families have been evicted from their homes since the crash in property values, the root of Spain’s economic difficulties.

How must the victims of this cruel slump feel when they learn, for example, that the royal couple spent some €9m (£7.5m) on the purchase and refurbishment of their Barcelona home.

The latest judicial decree in which Judge José Castro ordered the Infanta Cristina to testify in his court contains fresh, eyebrow-lifting details. He claims that the princess – motivated by “greed” – hired undocumented immigrants as domestic servants and paid them under the counter to save on social security contributions.

The 48-year-old Cristina has repeatedly denied wrongdoing. The prosecutor has accepted her argument that she had no detailed knowledge of her husband’s affairs. The prosecutor has said that, to bring her into the case would be to victimise her because of her position.

Judge Castro’s decree stands that argument on its head. It alleges that she used her name on all sorts of documents connected with the alleged tax evasion and money-laundering precisely to deter scrutiny of the dealings in which she and her husband were 50/50 partners. The decision to put her under formal investigation was the outcome of nine months of detective work, exhaustively documented in a 227-page report.

It is not the first time Judge Castro has tried to haul the Infanta Cristina into his court. Last year, he was blocked by a higher court. This time, it will be more difficult to stop him.

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