Argentine romance puts crown prince in Dutch

Holland's parliament is balking at the prospect of a royal father-in-law with ties to Argentina's brutal military dictatorship.

History seems to be repeating itself in the Netherlands, where a regal romance is raising a royal ruckus.

For weeks, debate has raged over who will succeed Queen Beatrix, after a group of members of parliament said they would not endorse a marriage between Crown Prince Willem-Alexander and his Argentine girlfriend, Maxima Zorreguieta.

Maxima's father, Jorge, was a civilian minister during the military 1976-1983 dictatorship of Gen. Jorge Videla. During General Videla's rule, thousands of Argentines were jailed, tortured, and killed for their alleged leftist sympathies. The Dutch prime minister's social democratic party, Partij van de Arbeid (PvdA), says Mr. Zorreguieta shares responsibility for those human rights violations.

Dutch lawmakers argue that anyone alleged to have committed human rights abuses should not be associated with the royal family. They say that the crown prince should be free to follow his heart, but should relinquish his right to the throne to one of his two brothers. While the couple has not announced an engagement, speculation is rife that a royal wedding is in the cards, and there is so much anxiety over Maxima's father's past that a constitutional crisis may be looming.

Under Dutch law, parliament must give its consent to any marriage involving the heir to the throne. Jan Marijnissen, a Socialist parliamentarian, summed up the politicians' greatest fear: "If the prince dies on the throne, she could occupy the post of head of state, so we must be absolutely clear that she is a democrat from the bottom of her feet to the top of her head."

Today's dilemma echoes a controversy of 35 years ago, when William-Alexander's mother, Crown Princess Beatrix, wed a German - a former member of the Hitler youth. With memories of Nazi occupation still fresh, rioters took to the streets and threw smoke bombs.

Last October, Zorreguieta told an Argentine weekly that he would not distance himself from his country's "process of national reorganization," a term coined by the military to describe the dictatorship. More recently, Mauricio Goyenechea, a close friend of the Zorreguieta family, said that Maxima's father will not discuss his past unless the royal family asks him to. Asked on Dutch television whether he thinks Zorreguieta would apologize for his role, Goyenechea said that "such a gesture would be senseless, because he was not one of the culprits."

Senior Argentine military officers were convicted on human rights violations, but later granted amnesties and pardons, for their role in Argentina's so-called "dirty war." Civilian ministers have not been prosecuted.

Some commentators have suggested Zorreguieta should not attend his daughter's wedding. But Maxima has said she will only walk down the aisle on her father's arm.

Usually respectful of the royal family's privacy, the press let forth a barrage of criticism when Queen Beatrix hosted a dinner at the palace for Maxima's parents. Prime Minister Wim Kok is urging politicians and the media to hush up, saying all the gossip is harming national unity.

Amnesty International has said that, as minister for agriculture, Zorreguieta shared responsibility for an estimated 30,000 deaths in Argentina

Last month Maarten Mourik, a Dutch former ambassador to UNESCO, filed a lawsuit in the Dutch city of Arnhem that accuses Zorreguieta of co-responsibility for crimes against humanity.

Mourik says that research carried out at his request by the Amsterdam International Law Clinic concluded that Zorreguieta could be held legally responsible for the junta's crimes. Meanwhile, opinion polls show that ordinary people have fallen in love with the fun-loving banker from Buenos Aires. And Maxima has captured the male imagination. Echoing others in the usually reserved political establishment, Defense Minister Frank de Grave gushed: "The crown prince certainly has good taste."

The tabloids are thrilled with the royal dilemma. "Maxima has raised our sales by 8 percent. She is our Diana, our people's princess," says Wilma Nanninga, editor of Prive, Holland's biggest-selling gossip magazine.

"Who cares about her father? Like the rest of the country, we just want a fairy tale wedding."

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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