Spaniards livid over king's elephant hunt

By Daniel Woolls

Associated Press

Published: Monday, April 16 2012 10:56 p.m. MDT

In this Dec. 27, 2011 file photo, Spain's King Juan Carlos leaves after the official opening of Parliament, in Madrid.

Associated Press

MADRID — In one fell swoop, King Juan Carlos of Spain has managed to unite right and left, young and old, those with jobs and those without in universal outrage over his tone-deaf African hunting safari.

As Spain foundered amid economic woes, what did the 74-year-old monarch do? He slipped away to hunt elephants in southern Africa. Let's count the ways that miscalculation of elephantine proportions has turned into a public relations disaster.

A lavish trip amid severe economic pain at home.

Interest rates for Spanish bonds have risen alarmingly in recent days, with fears mounting that the country could be the next in Europe to need a bailout. Not exactly the right time to go on an exotic holiday that one major newspaper estimated could cost twice a Spanish worker's average annual wages.

Spain is also struggling with 23 percent unemployment — the highest in the 17-nation eurozone — which soars to nearly 50 percent for young workers. The trip makes the king's earlier comments about how he can't sleep at night thinking about the country's unemployed ring rather hollow.

"Awful. I think what the king did is awful," said Angelica Diaz, a 70-year-old homemaker pushing a baby stroller in Madrid. "Because of the lack of solidarity with people here who are going hungry. What he did is wrong. He has to show more humanity."

A secret trip that even the government did not know about.

This particular trip — it is not clear if taxpayer money was used — only became public when the king stumbled and fell before dawn Friday at his bungalow in Botswana and fractured his right hip, forcing an emergency flight home and hip replacement surgery.

The El Mundo newspaper said the king had not told Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's government of his trip abroad until after the accident.

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