The Spanish minister for social rights and the Agenda 2030, Ione Belarra, has demanded "an apology" from king Felipe VI for his behaviour during the swearing in of the new president of Colombia, Gustavo Petro, last weekend. During the investiture ceremony in Bogotá, the sword of the liberator Simón Bolívar was displayed - a symbol of the independence achieved by the former Spanish colonies in America - and the monarch did not stand up, the only one of the dignitaries at the event to remain seated. "Our role was to show full respect and support for the democratic process that has taken place. It is inexplicable what has happened," said Bellara, who is also general secretary of Podemos.
Her words were backed up by a fellow Podemos member, the MP and party programme secretary, Pablo Echenique, who railed against "Felipe VI's disrespectful action" and asked if it had been authorized by the Spanish foreign ministry. "According to the Spanish Constitution, the king cannot do whatever he wants. His acts must be ratified", recalled the deputy.
Other parties also criticized the Spanish king's rudeness. From the Catalan Republican Left (ERC), congressional MP Jordi Salvador called him "disgraceful" and accused the monarch of having "given up being a person in order to be a worthy successor to a coup-plotting, corrupt and pro-fascist monarchy". He summed up the incident as "deplorable".
The pro-independence CUP also joined the criticism. Catalan MP Eulàlia Reguant stated that "the imperialist and colonial nature of the kingdom of Spain and the Spanish monarchy cannot be concealed today in Colombia".
Petro, outspoken on Catalonia
"We are not going to betray the electorate that has shouted at the country, at history, and called for change.” Those were the words of the Colombian president, Gustavo Petro, following his election as the first left-wing president in the history of his South American country. In fact, a little under five years ago, on October 1st, 2017, the former mayor of Bogotá was present as an observer at another electoral event, this time in Europe: Catalonia's independence referendum, held in defiance of the Spanish government. The new Colombian leader uploaded several videos he had filmed in the city of Barcelona that day. In one of them the Colombian president enters a school, and he notes in the text: "700 wounded, traditional left and Spanish right reject them. But here is a citizen democracy. Catalonia."
700 heridos, izquierda tradicional y derecha españolas los rechazan. Pero he aquí una democracia ciudadana. Catalunya pic.twitter.com/EYIHYDtJFD— Gustavo Petro (@petrogustavo) October 1, 2017
In October 2017, Spanish king Felipe VI had also been a protagonist, thanks to his speech condemning the stand taken by pro-independence Catalans. This weekend, in Colombia, the Spanish monarch once again took a controversial political position, when he refused to join other dignataries in standing up for the arrival of the revolutionary Simón Bolívar sword at the new Colombian president's swearing in. Alone among the visiting political leaders, Felipe VI remained seated with a cold expression and without applauding.
Main image: Spanish monarch Felipe VI and Colombian president Gustavo Petro / ACN