Juan Carlos celebrates 70th

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Juan Carlos celebrates 70th birthday after a rocky year on the throne.

7 January 2008

MADRID - King Juan Carlos  celebrates his 70th birthday on Saturday surrounded by his family in Zarzuela Palace, a royal spokesman said. Of his 70 years, 32 have been spent serving as Spain's constitutional monarch.

The king turned down the offer of official public celebrations or formal dinners, the spokesman said. Instead, he will spend the day with his family, including his two sisters, the Infantas Pilar and Margarita. "Thousands of messages from different well wishers, including anonymous ones, from all over the world have been arriving at the palace," said the spokesman.

On 22 November 1975, Juan Carlos was proclaimed king just 20 days after Francisco Franco's death. Although he was handpicked by Franco to be his successor, Juan Carlos has been credited for restoring democracy in Spain by selecting Adolfo Suárez as his first prime minister who helped introduce a series of major political reforms in the coming years, including legalising the Communist Party.

In February 1981, the king faced his first test when he called on the armed forces to remain loyal to the constitutional order after a group of civil guards tried unsuccessfully to dissolve parliament by force.
Although he has won the admiration of many of his subjects, the king in recent months has had to defend the monarchy as an institution from certain sectors which want to abolish it. In an unusual address late last year, the king said that the monarchy has helped maintained Spain's democratic order.

Juan Carlos was also propelled into international headlines in November, when he confronted Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez during a summit in which the leftist leader continued to interrupt Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. Juan Carlos' "Why don't you shut up?" remark to Chávez has earned him the admiration of many Spaniards.

"My generation is profoundly grateful to you for allowing democracy to flourish, and I am truly proud to work alongside you," said Rodríguez Zapatero.

Santiago Carrillo, a former Communist Party leader, said that he had to "recognise the radical direction" in which the king has taken the monarchy.

"This direction includes separating the monarchy from the right, the Church hierarchy and the fanatical powers of the past."

[Copyright El Pais / MÁBEL GALAZ 2008]

Subject: Spanish news

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