Amid angry accusations of official incompetence, the Spanish news media are calling the 10-day U.S. tour by King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia--which included a two-day stop in Los Angeles--an embarrassing flop.
The reports in Madrid newspapers Tuesday triggered Spain's political opposition to demand an official explanation in Parliament of what went wrong with the tour, which was to have projected an image of a modern and dynamic nation. Although the royal couple themselves were not criticized, media commentators accused the prime minister's office of mishandling the trip.
Astonished by Press
The Madrid daily Diario 16 quoted U.S. Rep. Alberto Bustamante, a Texas Democrat of Latino origin, as saying he had been astonished by the way the Spanish authorities handled the visit. But Bustamante said Wednesday that he was actually astonished at how badly the Spanish press misquoted him.
"The worst thing was that the royal couple passed by unnoticed almost everywhere," the paper quoted Bustamante as saying, adding that every effort appeared to have been made to keep the king away from ordinary people. Bustamante also was quoted as criticizing the king's advisers for ignoring the opportunity after last week's earthquake in Los Angeles "to take the royals to the worst-hit areas and put them in contact with people."
Bustamante blames the misquotes on a disgruntled newsman. "That silly story insults me," the congressman said. "Whenever I told him I thought the king's visit went great he would ask didn't I think he should have spent more time with local people. It was a purely manufactured story. None of it was said by me."
Bustamante, who lunched with Juan Carlos during his visit to San Antonio, admits that the publicity for the trip could have been better. "He didn't get as much space as the Pope, but he was still well received on a very fast trip."
Spanish correspondents on the tour, whose initial irritation at American aloofness quickly turned to anger at Spanish disorganization, appeared to relish what they portrayed as the steady degeneration of the visit.
The influential Madrid daily El Pais complained that "three spokesmen travel with the king and the information is either inexistent, arrives late or is concealed."
It also reported that reporters had been informed that Hollywood stars, including Jane Fonda, would attend a royal banquet in Los Angeles but that none, except Esther Williams, turned up.
"The royal party's lunches and dinners . . . are almost clandestine," the newspaper reported.
Pedro Temboury, Spanish consul general in Los Angeles, disputed the negative assessment, calling the Southern California leg of the trip a smashing success.
"The king himself told me he enjoyed it," Temboury said. "It was perfectly organized by local authorities, and everything went very smoothly. It didn't have the same character as the visit of the Pope, but you can't mobilize throngs in the streets like that. I don't understand what those comments mean."
According to Sandra Ausman, chief of protocol for Los Angeles County, Fonda was never invited to the dinner last Thursday night at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "We were filled to capacity," she added, "and the king and queen spent an hour speaking to everyone who wished to talk to them, including staff from my office."
Fonda, however, was invited to, but didn't attend, the black-tie dinner last Wednesday night at the Museum of Contemporary Art, according to Fred MacFarlane, press secretary to Mayor Tom Bradley. In attendance, however, were Altovise Davis, Marla Gibbs, Marily McCoo and Billy Davis Jr., Barbara Bain, and Ed Begley Jr.
Temboury also noted that the couple got a chance to talk with citizens from the city's Latino population on walking tours through Olvera Street.
Temboury and MacFarlane also said there was also no request for an earthquake tour. But Temboury added: "They were leaving the next day and there was no time to go there. They were very, very upset by the earthquake. Had they had more time here I'm sure they would have made plans to go to the affected parts of the city."
Said "There was a vital sense of concern for (the royal couple's) safety, but the first order of business was to stabilize the city. They didn't really have an official role in surveying the earthquake damage and touching base with the regular people."
MacFarlane did say that journalists were shut out of some events that the monarchs attended, "and I don't know if (the Spanish journalists) fully understood why they were closed. In some instances the Spanish journalists were allowed to cover some events that the American journalists were not. And some events were covered by a pool of reporters and photographers."