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Coup d’état in Spain, yesterday and today

Lt. Col. Antonio Tejero, moments after he broke into the Chamber of Deputies, on the afternoon of February 23, 1981, which began a coup in Spain, with the seizure of Parliament and uprisings armed in several cities. Its failure ended up consolidating the recently restored democracy. Credit: RTVE.
  • Notice by Joaquin Roy (Miami)
  • Inter Press Service

Under the orders of Lieutenant-Colonel Antonio Tejero, brandishing a regulatory pistol, the invaders interrupted the vote of the new president of the Council of Ministers, Leopoldo Calvo Sotelo, who was to succeed Adolfo Suárez, who resigned a few days earlier. Tejero claimed that his action was approved by King Juan Carlos I.

The dramatic incident was inaugurated by machine gun fire from the invaders towards the roof of the building, while parliamentarians were ordered to lie down on the ground under their seats. Only three MPs stood: President Suárez, Communist leader Santiago Carrillo and outgoing government vice-president and defense minister General Manuel Gutiérrez Mellado.

Suárez, who had been the architect of restoring democracy in 1978 with the approval of the new Constitution with King Juan Carlos, found himself exhausted in an environment full of clashes caused mainly by the harassment that the terrorist group ETA had imposed. in the political environment through attacks on the police, civilians and the military.

The serious event was resolved after intense hours of action when King Juan Carlos released a statement on television in which, in plain language, he remembered the coup plotters and their possible collaborators as the leader of the ‘State on their obligations.

The previous context of serious events was full of danger signals which have been confirmed. Among the details that led the king to take the drastic decision, his family’s environment stands out, he was overcrowded with historical mistakes that were dearly paid for. This panorama extended as much in time as in space.

In the first place, the most distant antecedent was the mistake made by Juan Carlos’ own grandfather, Alfonso XIII, when in the twenties of the previous century he came under pressure from the army and ended up by accepting the role of General Primo de Rivera in 1923.

A few years until 1930 were enough for its influence to be exhausted and for the evolution of national politics to bear witness to the triumph of the left in the important cities during the municipal elections of 1931. The second Spanish Republic survived until the coup d State of General Franco’s military forces which started the civil war of 1936-1939, and the subsequent establishment of the Franco dictatorship until 1975.

Juan Carlos also had the latent impact of such a political error on his wife’s own family, Queen Sofía. His brother, King Constantine of Greece, could not resist the pressure from the military, to whom he handed the initiative to power in 1967. Later, this decision meant the end of the Greek monarchy and the establishment of a republican regime in 1973.

The atmosphere which presided over in Madrid this fatal February 23 insisted on the memory of the monarchical errors of the past. Therefore, avoiding the jerky decisions of the past has prevented the repetition of historical tragedies.

The current circumstances, given the apparent survival of some social and political instabilities, in the midst of a pandemic economic crisis, advise an analysis of the feasibility of a serious and radical resolution of the political differences. It is therefore appropriate to reflect on the attempts at indiscipline in certain military sectors, as expressed in manifestos published by sectors of military leaders under the statute of retirement.

A calm analysis of these generated incidents deserves an evaluation because they consider themselves limited to those sectors led by a nostalgic minority. On the other hand, the professionalism of the sectors which have served over the past decades in peace missions, development aid, and even assistance in the fight against the pandemic, is claimed. But this does not completely eliminate the latent threat of discontent, accompanied by the poor performance of political parties in the face of new dangers.

With some concern, therefore, we must observe the deterioration in the exercise of the once important position of the People’s Party, whose advantage on the national scene has significantly eroded. Besides the fact that the PP has practically disappeared from the Catalan scene, the failure of the centrist parties (the UCD was the best example of the transition) which could act as hinges in the manner of the liberal-centrist formations in certain European countries , such as the UK and Germany.

The knockout given to Ciudadanos (which aspired to be a supermodern UCD), coupled with the stratospheric rise of far-right VOX, should be placed at the center of meditation on the instability of the political fabric.

It must also take pride of place in speculation about the threat of a coup, hard or soft, or simply spendable. The anniversary of 23-F is a good occasion to detect the latent presence of Tejero on the floor of the Congress or to consider that the withdrawal of Franco’s body from the Valley of the Fallen means something permanent.

Joaquin roy is Professor Jean Monnet and Director of the European Union Center at the University of Miami

© Inter Press Service (2021) – All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service


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