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Spain: The King and the Elephants

This post is part of our special coverage Europe in Crisis.

On April 14, 2012, Spain's King Juan Carlos underwent an operation due to a hip fracture following a fall that he suffered when he was in Botswana, Africa, hunting elephants [es].  The Royal Family reported the incident when the king had already successfully gone through the operation and was resting in the Intensive Care Unit of USP San José Hospital.

The news — which spread immediately on the Internet — seems to be taken out of old stories, in which royalty were happy and went to hunt elephants while, in their kingdom, their subjects were content and dedicated to their common citizen tasks.  It turns out, however, that in the 21st century, circumstances are different. The king still exists and he hunts elephants in Botswana, but instead, his citizens suffer social cuts unprecedented in democratic history due to the financial crisis, and there are more than 5 million people unemployed, with a rate of youth unemployment that exceeds 50%.

The king's trip has cost over 37,000 euro, and the online protests have not ceased to proliferate, such the letter from WWF Spain (a conservationist organization) and demands a meeting with the Royal Family [es]:

Este desafortunado acontecimiento es mundialmente conocido en estos momentos y estamos recibiendo incontables muestras de enérgica protesta, lo cual implica un grave perjuicio para la credibilidad de WWF y de la intensa labor que ha desarrollado durante más de cincuenta años para la protección de los elefantes y de otras especies.

This unfortunate event has been made known worldwide now and we are receiving countless demonstrations of heated protests, which causes serious damage to the credibility of the WWF and the immense work that has been done over the past fifty years to protect elephants and other species.

On the blog “Principia Marsupia”, physicist Alberto Sicilia writes a “Letter from a theoretical physics researcher to King Juan Carlos” [es]:

Regresé a un país donde el Jefe del Estado se opera de prótesis de cadera en una clínica privada, mientras miles de compatriotas esperan meses para la misma intervención. Regresé a un país donde el Jefe del Estado se va de vacaciones en jet privado mientras se fulminan las ayudas a las personas dependientes.

I returned to a country where the Head of State is getting a hip replacement operation in a private clinic, while thousands of fellow citizens are waiting months for the same procedure.  I returned to a country where the Head of State goes on vacation on a private jet while dependent individuals are stripped of services.

Many debates have taken place across social networks as well:

@DRYburgos: Millones de parados, centenares de desahucios cada día… y el Rey cazando elefantes en Botswana?? Esto es intolerable!

@DRYburgos: Thousands of unemployed individuals, hundreds evicted every day… and the king is hunting elephants in Botswana??  This is intolerable!

@GLlamazares: De tal palo tal astilla. El monarca se fractura la cadera cazando elefantes y su nieto se dispara en el pie.

@GLlamazares: A chip off the old block.  The monarch fractures a hip hunting elephants and his grandson shoots himself in the foot.

@democraciareal: Mientras unos sufrimos duros recortes en Sanidad y Educación, otros derrochan miles de euros de dinero público matando elefantes en África

@democraciareal: While we suffer harsh cuts in health and education, others squander thousands of euros in public funds killing elephants in Africa.

This is a video from Rann Safaris, a company that sponsors trips to hunt elephants in Africa. (Note: video contains graphic content.)

On April 18, the king was been released from the hospital, and he said to the press: “I am hoping to resume my obligations and I truly apologize.  I made a mistake and it will not happen again [es].”

This post is part of our special coverage Europe in Crisis.

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