The historian Ángel Viñas (Madrid, 1941) receives the call from elDiario.es from Brussels, where he continues to be confined, writing at home, since the pandemic broke out. With the caution of the person accustomed to constructing the story “with papers” and with the perspective given by the passage of time, Viñas agrees to assess what is undoubtedly a news item with an impact on the present of our country, and which will form part of History of Spain: the departure of Juan Carlos I in the midst of the scandal for alleged illicit enrichment.
SURVEY | What do you think of the decision made by Juan Carlos I?
How do you assess the decision made by the King Emeritus?
First of all, I think it is a good decision. This whenever he returns if the judicial or pre-judicial investigation that is in progress makes his appearance necessary. You cannot know what the judicial result will be, but if your presence is required, you have to return.
Secondly, I believe that their situation had been considerably weakened. A part of the Government had already begun to say that the honorary title had to be taken away, that the Royal House had to be activated … Something had to be done.
If Justice requires his presence, Juan Carlos must return
That this he has done now is sufficient is debatable. But I think he has made a decision to relieve the pressure that existed on him and Felipe VI. He is not the first king or ex-monarch who has had trouble with his skirts … It is something that, as it were, is part of the genes of the Bourbon house. But their love affairs are irrelevant, because Spanish society today has a greater understanding of this type of subject than previous generations. The escapades of Alfonso XII, Alfonso XIII, Isabel II and Fernando VI were known and endured.
But another thing is the fiscal issue, with this the Spanish society is more demanding. If Juan Carlos I has not fulfilled his tax obligations, especially after his abdication, I think that his escape will not solve it.
Should he have voluntarily brought himself to justice?
That is evident! From the first moment! There are jurists who think that once abdicated, the inviolability of the king is a debatable topic. But this is an ethical and moral question. As a Spanish citizen, although I live outside of Spain, I pay my taxes, and I do not resort to tricks. I think it is something that society does not deserve.
Have you been surprised or expected such an outcome?
I was not surprised because something had to be done. This could not go on like this. Spain is a fairly serious country, we are not in the year 23 or the 19th century. This is the first time this has happened in the history of Spain. No king had done this. And when you have a political office you have to walk with lead feet, you have to be more transparent than glass. The greater the responsibility, the greater must be the ethical and moral responsibility.
Why do you think it got to that point? Was he overly protected under the mantra that he was a necessary figure to consolidate democracy in Spain?
When I lived in Spain, in the 80s, it was known to everyone at a certain level, and I was part of that level, that Juan Carlos I had lovers. The names were known and also that he had a comrade of misdeeds, Colón de Carvajal, who helped him in dirty business. It was something known in Madrid’s political circles.
And why that pact of silence?
I don’t know … What I do know is that it was a known thing and the press didn’t say anything. Then they began to report their skirt tricks, but not monetary and economic matters.
Have the Spanish Royal House lacked reflexes to face the Juan Carlos I scandal?
Yes, it has lacked reflexes. When Elizabeth II of England went through an image problem due to a lack of sensitivity to the death of Princess Diana, both the Royal House and the British Government took very successful measures to recover the image of the monarchy. There was a reaction that the Spanish Royal House has not had
I admit it is not an easy topic. But what is at stake is not the monarchy, that is a long and complicated process, the king’s moral authority is at stake. And if there is no moral authority, bad thing.
Has the time come to face the debate on monarchy or republic politically?
The change of form of government requires following the process that is provided for in the Constitution and is long and complicated. It would generate tensions … which frankly with COVID-19, the collapse of the Spanish economy, political tensions … I am a little sensitized with the current situation. Now we have to face the reconstruction, and I dare to assure that the economic collapses will take us to levels like those of almost after the war. This is far superior to the 2009 crisis. That is why I believe that the issue of state change of form should not be on the wing.
Should the inviolability of the monarch be ended?
Normally, the king is inviolable during the exercise of his office. I believe that what is essential is that the Royal House stop taking refuge behind a veil of secrecy that is unmatched by any other European monarchy. The monarchy is very much in need of transparency, and it would not hurt if Philip VI gave an example and opened the archives of the Crown. Since the Spanish governments have been reluctant to open government files, the king should open them and see what the Crown has been doing since 31st year.
Are we facing one of the worst moments of the Spanish monarchy?
This is not a good time, but it is not a deadly situation. This will come out. It is not good for the monarchy or Spain that these situations continue indefinitely. And it’s been around too long already. The course must be retouched. King Felipe VI, like all kings, has his advisers and these have lacked reflexes.
This is not a good time for the monarchy, but it is not a deadly situation.
You have defended in your books that, with the Transition, King Juan Carlos “saved a historical debt of the Crown” because the monarchists led the coup d’état of 1936.
Yes in the book Who wanted the civil war?, in the last pages, I make it clear that those who did the most for the civil war were the monarchists. It was impossible that Alfonso XIII in exile did not know it. Then Franco sneaked in and screwed up their plans. I think the crown has something to reveal on that subject. Where are the papers of Alfonso XIII in exile and those of Juan de Borbón?
There is one elementary thing: no one can jump over their own shadow. What the historian does is explore the past, good or bad. I belong to people who do it with papers. Unless the papers are destroyed, the papers go on and at some point open, sometimes with some delay, but they do open.
Juancarlista has been admitted, is he still?
I have thought that he played an important role and, unlike other political scientists and historians, whose opinion I respect, I think that his role was fundamental for the establishment of a democratic system. If it did not do so, we would have continued in a militarized dictatorship with soldiers who were pro-Franco.
In the army, there are still many Francoist embers today. There is nothing more to see as after leaving VOX, several soldiers have joined this party. And that is people to whom, by age, the Franco dictatorship falls far short.
I am one of those who believe that Spain has not settled accounts with its past, and this is not a problem of monarchy, it is a problem of the State. Although much has been done and we are in a democratic system, there is a hangover that comes from Francoism, which has not been dealt with. Because, on the one hand, the files are closed. On the other hand, no government from 75 onwards has undertaken what in my opinion is a fundamental task, and which is to teach through the compulsory educational system what the reality of the Republic, the Civil War and Francoism was. As long as that is not done, bad thing.
How will Juan Carlos I pass to the history books?
I believe that in the first stage it will not go badly, because as the Transition is analyzed, although critical roles remain to be opened, it will be seen that there were not many alternatives, which is something that can be perceived afterwards. At the time of the Republic, I have perceived as a historian some forks that, if they had not been taken, would have made us go another way. These bifurcations are perceived over time, when the result has been revealed and one can speculate on the path not taken. I don’t know what historians will say 30 years from now about the transition, but I suspect there weren’t many alternatives.
As the Transition is analyzed, it is seen that there were not many alternatives
There are people who have questions about the role of the king in 23F, and although I cannot pronounce myself because not all the papers have been put on the table, I have thought a lot that if he supports the coup, the coup is successful. Point. And we wouldn’t know what would have happened. That was clearly a bifurcation moment. I don’t know the trail, but clearly it would have been negative.
What role, or role, does Philip VI now have ahead of him?
You have to deal with the one that is going to come down on you. The answer for me is very simple: you must increase the level of transparency of the Royal House. The fact that Juan Carlos leaves Spain temporarily discharges him, creates a window of opportunity in which he can and should take action. Transparency in the financial affairs of the Royal House, that from the start, now.