The White House, political personalities and the major U.S. media outlets on Monday emphasized the leadership of Spain’s King Juan Carlos, who hours earlier had announced his abdication, during his country’s transition to democracy.
“During his distinguished reign, King Juan Carlos guided Spain’s historic transition to democracy,” said White House National Security Council spokesman Patrick Ventrell in a brief statement provided to Efe.
The 76-year-old monarch on Monday announced that, after almost 40 years on the throne, he had decided to abdicate in favor of his son, Crown Prince Felipe.
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, emphasized that the king “fulfilled an indispensable role in strengthening the country’s institutions and uniting the Spanish people.”
“On the international stage, King Juan Carlos’s leadership was felt worldwide, especially within the Spanish-speaking world. He was also deeply dedicated to building a strong bond between the United States and Spain,” the senator said.
Menendez, the grandson of Spaniards, stressed that during the five years in which he was the honorary chairman of the United States-Spain Council he learned to appreciate “that King Juan Carlos was a gifted and talented leader, revered in Spain and respected around the globe.”
The Washington Post remarked that “Juan Carlos reigned during a time of profound change in Spain, as it transitioned from a dictatorship under Francisco Franco to a constitutional monarchy and open democracy.”
Juan Carlos, the Post said, “came to embody the hope of an entire nation. Young, handsome, brimming with ideas for the future and equipped with an uncanny ability to win over the common man, Juan Carlos became a paragon of what a constitutional monarch could be.”
The New York Times also emphasized the king’s “key role in consolidating Spain’s return to democracy” and specifically referred to his efforts to abort an attempted military coup in 1981.
Juan Carlos, whose reign began in 1975 after the death of dictator Francisco Franco, has always maintained excellent relations with the United States.
In fact, he has met with all U.S. presidents since the beginning of the 1970s.
His first official trip abroad as head of state took the king to Washington in 1976, where he met with President Gerald Ford.
His latest visit to Washington came in February 2010, when he held a working meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House.