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Spain's king declared unwelcome by northern town

Associated Press Modified: May 5, 2012 at 10:30 am •  Published: May 5, 2012
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MADRID (AP) — A northeastern town has declared the king of Spain an unwelcome person, dealing another blow to the 74-year-old monarch who has faced scalding criticism for going on an elephant hunting trip during a severe financial crisis.

The town council of Berga — population 17,160 — in the region of Catalonia approved a symbolic motion proposed by the pro-independence Popular Unity Candidature party declaring King Juan Carlos "persona non grata," or not welcome.

The censure was published on the town's website Saturday after having been approved by vote in the council chamber two days earlier.

The king has faced condemnation after breaking a hip while on a lavish safari in southern Africa at a time when nearly one in four Spaniards were unemployed and the economy entered its second recession in three years.

The accident happened in the early hours of April 13 while the king was on the fourth day of an elephant hunt in Botswana's northern Okavango region, and he was immediately flown home by private jet for emergency hip replacement surgery.

In a separate statement, the party published its proposal which said the king's "personal behavior has been marked by all kinds of scandals" which, it added, "reach a climax with the Bostwana affair in April."

Although the king apologized for having gone elephant hunting while everyday people endured a severe economic crisis, it was clear this unprecedented act of royal contrition wasn't enough for Berga's councilors. Berga is located 108 kilometers (67 miles) north of Catalonia's capital, Barcelona.

The royal family has been under intense media scrutiny lately — and not for the best reasons.

The king's son-in-law Inaki Urdangarin is a suspect in a corruption case, accused of having used his position to embezzle several million euros in public contracts through a supposedly not-for-profit foundation he set up.

Then, over Easter, the king's 13-year-old grandson Felipe Juan Froilan shot himself in the foot with a shotgun, even though by law in Spain you must be 14 to handle a gun.

The royal palace declined to comment Saturday on Berga's decision.