Irene Montero (Podemos): “It is very difficult to separate the Bourbon corruption cases from the institution of monarchy.”

The Spanish royal family is plunging from one crisis to the next: former King Juan Carlos I. is accused of having collected over 100 million US dollars in bribes for the construction of an express train line in Saudi Arabia. An investigation into the activities of the former monarch was rejected by the Spanish Congress by votes from the PSOE, PP and Vox. However, clearer words are now being heard from the far left: The Minister of Equality, Irene Montero (Podemos), for example, said today, that it is very difficult to separate the royal family’s cases of corruption from the institution of monarchy.

Irene Montero 2019
Irene Montero (Podemos) sees the corruption of the Spanish royal family as an institutional problem
Aea1994/CC BY-SA 4.0

Montero stressed that every person is equal before the judiciary and the accusations are serious. Head of government Pedro Sánchez (PSOE) made similar points two weeks ago when he spoke of “disturbing information”. Nevertheless, the Socialists are evading a clear position on the case.

Sharp criticism from the regions

After the PSOE, along with the PP and Vox, voted against the investigation into the activities of Juan Carlos I, the Spanish daily El País interpreted the statements by Socialist party spokeswoman Adriana Lastra as a clear rejection of any intervention by Congress on royalty issues. In her comments she referred to the Spanish constitution.

There was strong criticism of this from left-wing regional parties, such as the Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC). Its member of parliament Gabrial Rufían said after the vote that it was a disgrace for the entire Spanish left that the PSOE seemed to legitimise the actions of Juan Carlos I.

The demand of the regional left parties that the portraits of the former monarch be taken down in the parliaments was partly only carried out at regional level. For example, in Navarre. In the government hall of the parliament, the painting was already removed in mid-June, as all parliamentary groups, except the conservative-liberal group, had voted in favour of it before.

Mission Damage Control

King Felipe VI catches the corruption accusations against his father at a very bad time. Although he had tried to draw a line between Juan Carlos I and himself, in which Felipe for instance renounces his inheritance and withdraws his father’s annual salary, he was not able to do so. Nevertheless, on his current tour through corona-weakened Spain he feels headwinds. In many places there are protests against his visits. In the Basque Country, for example, pictures of Felipe and Juan Carlos have been supplemented with those of the dictator Francisco Franco.

For the latter, corruption was also not an issue: during his almost 40-year dictatorship, the Franco family was able to accumulate a fortune, which is estimated at up to 600 million euros.