ROYAL SCANDALS

Political parties slam Spanish king’s sisters for jumping Covid-19 vaccine line on trip to Abu Dhabi

The ‘infantas’ Elena and Cristina are alleged to have been inoculated while visiting their father, emeritus king Juan Carlos in the United Arab Emirates

The ‘infantas’ Cristina and Elena in a file photo from last October.
The ‘infantas’ Cristina and Elena in a file photo from last October.José Oliva / Europa Press

Spanish leftist parties Unidas Podemos and the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) on Tuesday leveled harsh criticism against King Felipe VI’s sisters, the ‘infantas’ Elena and Cristina, for allegedly getting vaccinated against Covid-19 while on a trip to Abu Dhabi to visit their father, emeritus king Juan Carlos I.

The story was broken last night by digital daily El Confidencial, which alleged that the pair got the inoculations in February. EL PAÍS has not managed to confirm the information. The Royal Household, meanwhile, has declined to comment on the revelations on the basis that the infantas are not an official part of the institution. King Felipe, Queen Letizia and their daughters Princess Leonor and the infanta Sofía, the Royal Household added, will be vaccinated according to the groups established by the central government as part of the ongoing campaign. The infanta Cristina, it should be pointed out, is officially resident in Switzerland.

The emeritus king Juan Carlos I, who abdicated the throne in 2014, has been living in Abu Dhabi since last August. He fled Spain as allegations of financial wrongdoing mounted against him. In the last couple of months he has made multi-million-euro payments to the Spanish Tax Agency in a bid to clear his debts and avoid prosecution. Juan Carlos is also reported to have received his Covid-19 vaccination in Abu Dhabi, as did Félix Sanz Roldán, the former head of Spain’s CNI intelligence services.

By getting the vaccine, the infantas skipped the line in terms of the order of vaccination established by the Spanish authorities. That is not the case for their father, however, who, at 83, would be in line to receive his jabs according to the protocols in his home country.

A TVE program briefly showed Felipe VI's daughters, Leonor and Sofía, instead of his sisters Elena and Cristina, to illustrate the story of their alleged vaccination in the United Arab Emirates.
A TVE program briefly showed Felipe VI's daughters, Leonor and Sofía, instead of his sisters Elena and Cristina, to illustrate the story of their alleged vaccination in the United Arab Emirates.tve

Coverage of the story has triggered a new controversy at the state broadcaster TVE, where the news program La hora de La 1 briefly showed a picture of Leonor and Sofía, the underage daughters of King Felipe VI, instead of his sisters Elena and Cristina. Forty seconds later, the host of the show, Igor Gómez, apologized live for the mistake. “It was a technical error, we apologize,” he said. Three weeks ago, a scriptwriter for the same program was fired after he wrote a caption about Princess Leonor’s study program in Wales that said: “Leonor is leaving Spain, just like her grandfather,” in a clear reference to Juan Carlos I.

Members of the leftist Unidas Podemos, which is the junior partner in Spain’s Socialist Party (PSOE)-led coalition government, as well as leading representatives of the Catalan party ERC criticized the vaccination of the king’s sisters.

The ERC spokesperson in the Congress of Deputies, Gabriel Rufián, tweeted: “Take care how you caption this, they’ll sack you; take care how you tweet this, they’ll report you; take care how you rap about this, they’ll lock you up.” He was referring to a series of controversies involving people who have been taken to court over recent years for insulting the Crown either on social media or in song lyrics. In the first instance, he was referring to sackings at state broadcaster TVE after an on-screen chryon during a news program about Princess Leonor’s study plans in the United Kingdom, which stated that the princess would be moving abroad, “like her grandfather.”

Nadia Calviño, meanwhile, who is one of Spain’s deputy prime ministers and the economy minister, said during an interview with the Cadena SER radio network that she considered the news to be “very surprising.” Labor Minister Yolanda said on TVE: “This country wants us to be equal and this is very unpleasant and ugly.”

The leader of left-wing party Más País, Podemos co-founder Íñigo Errejón, said via Twitter that his group would register a question on the issue with the government and would demand explanations. “You visit your father who fled [the country] and jump the line for vaccination,” he tweeted. “Like any other Spaniard would, let’s be honest. It’s a lack of respect for our country. Another one.”

The Spanish royal family has been hit by a series of scandals over the years, dating back to the start of the last decade when the king was injured while on an elephant-hunting trip in the midst of the ongoing financial crisis in Spain, and his marital infidelity became public knowledge. King Felipe was forced to renounce any inheritance from his father last March due to the allegations of tax fraud that were mounting against the emeritus king. The infanta Cristina, meanwhile, escaped punishment for her involvement in a corruption scandal. But her husband, Iñaki Urdangarin, was not so fortunate and was jailed for his part in the so-called Nóos scandal. He is still serving his sentence.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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