Students in Madrid want their King Juan Carlos University renamed, several cities are planning the same for their streets, memes are circulating ridiculing the former monarch after he left the country in the midst of a corruption scandal.
The constitution, political fragmentation and opinion polls, which show that the population is divided on the issue, mean that the scandal, involving investigations into a high-speed train order and offshore accounts, is unlikely to change Spain’s political system any time soon. But the former king’s sudden departure for an unspecified place abroad, which he said would allow his son King Felipe VI to rule without suffering from his problems, has sparked controversy in his homeland.
Authorities in the Madrid suburb of Pinto were among the first to react, voting last week to change the name of the city’s Juan Carlos I park and remove its statue. “We thought the park should not have a name that was associated with allegations of dishonesty and corruption,” Pinto Deputy Mayor Lola Rodriguez told Reuters. “It is true that he (Juan Carlos) is not a defendant, but we do not think he will be tried, so waiting for a trial to start would be a bit absurd,” she added.
Juan Carlos ascended the throne in 1975 after the death of General Francisco Franco and was respected for his role in Spain’s transition from dictatorship to democracy. However, recent scandals have tarnished his image and forced him to abdicate in 2014 and now leave the country.
In June, Spain’s Supreme Court launched an investigation into the role of Juan Carlos in a contract to build a high-speed railway in Saudi Arabia, after the Swiss newspaper Tribune de Geneva reported that the former monarch had received $ 100 million from the late Saudi king. Although Juan Carlos has not been formally investigated, details of the investigation in Spain and Switzerland have been leaked to the media, increasing pressure on the king to act to protect the monarchy. Through his lawyer, Juan Carlos has repeatedly refused to comment on the case.
At Pinto Park, passersby were divided over the renaming and removal of the statue.
“Before such a trial, such hasty decisions should not be made,” said Jose Marin, a 40-year-old Pinto resident.
In Madrid, an online petition to rename the university had garnered more than 43,000 signatures by Wednesday afternoon. “There are constant scandals of corruption around the royal family and undermining the image of the monarchy, which has been portrayed as ‘benevolent’ and ‘modest,'” the petition said.
Amid a wave of memes about the departure of the former monarch, a Twitter user he saidthat the university should be renamed “King’s Exiled University”. The city of Gijón in northern Spain will change the name of its boulevard “Juan Carlos I”, said a local municipal official. / BTA