If the United States has offices in its Department of State to follow up on Somalia, it is not surprising they’d follow up on an important European country like Spain.
Twenty-three years after the end of the uprising in 1962, events occurred in Spain worth following up on: the powerful mining strikes and the wedding of Juan Carlos to Sofía, which many Spanish public figures attended. A portion of these figures went to Munich afterwards, where 118 persons — including leaders from abroad — held the Munich Summit. Irreconcilable enemies like Gil Robles, Rodolfo Llopis (general secretary of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party), Dionisio Ridruejo and others, under the presidency of Salvador de Madariaga, tried to come to an agreement for change in Spain.
The dictator’s response was a national mobilization around his figure, repressive measures against those who had attended and that historic speech: “We will not win Spain’s power with ballots but with bayonets!”
Lights began to turn on in the United States, and by then, the traditional Franco forces were facing Opus Dei, which incorporated a good part of its men into the Spanish government, since the Spanish capital needed a change.
In Washington there were questions on how to not destabilize Europe in the face of the possible absence of Franco. It was then that Nixon sent a very important dignitary, General Vernon Walters, one of his right-hand men, to Madrid to speak to and sound out Franco. In El Pardo, after listening to Franco talk about how he had left everything “bound and well-tied,” Walters responded that they disagreed and that the prince would not be able to govern if he did not carry out a political reform, wherefore Franco, faced with the “ever important suggestion” of who had kept him alive after World War II, sent Walters to see Chiefs of Staff Major Diaz Alegría and Carrero Blanco.
That was in February of 1971, and thus began a process directed by the United States into which the part of the army that had not participated in the uprising was admitted. General Fernández-Monzon (who is the author of the book we referred to yesterday and the day before yesterday) gave the guidelines as follows: It was necessary to prepare the new army cadres that had not participated in the conflict, the so-called “pre-transition.”
There is always talk of the army and the sabers as a homogeneous unit, when it was not like that. I differentiate the high command that had participated in the conflict, the lieutenant generals, from their sons — soldiers who had an idea of how to provide continuity for the regime. This is who was preparing the script for what would happen when Franco was gone.
The script directed by the United States required political reform and a bi-partisan system, like what they had in their country. On the part of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party, it was thought that Europe was ruled by social democracy with Willy Brandt, François Mitterrand, Olof Palme and others.
Normally the Socialist International* would have supported Rodolfo Llopis, the historic leader of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party in exile, but two Congresses rose up, the last in 1974 in Surennes, and therefore a shift was necessary.
The team that governed the pre-transition understood that it had to get the support of Willy Brandt, and as we stated yesterday, through [Gustav Heinemann] and under U.S. pressure, Willy Brandt was contacted. From that, the Congress would have to find a new social-democratic option that provided stability. Of course, the legalization of the Communist Party was contemplated in the pre-transition, but only after the change within the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party.
But there was nobody within Franco’s government holding up this project and more resistant to him than Admiral Carrero Blanco, whom Franco had placed at the forefront of the government to cover its back. Of course, the person who was most aware of the pressures of the United States was Carrero Blanco, who had initially supported the pre-transition. Thus, when Henry Kissinger (the author of the overthrow of Allende and the support of the dictatorships in South America, and guilty of thousands and thousands of deaths) was before him asking for approval for a military base, Carrero paid no heed and did not grant it.
Of course that negativity had a cost. The U.S. intelligence services, aware of what the ETA was planning, only had to get in contact with them.** The same objective: Liquidate the Franco regime with the assassination of Carrero Blanco. Gulio Pontecorvo’s film is about that assassination; the only thing that was hidden was that the ETA did not have explosives capable of causing the admiral’s car to fly so many floors into the air. This meant the CIA had to provide only the explosive, handled by the ETA, of such power that the head of government’s car was thrown up to the building’s rooftop terrace.
The script went on. Torcuato and Suárez opened the path for the reformation and for Juan Carlos to govern.
However, the attitude of Adolfo Suárez toward the transition was taken seriously, and this left him displaced from all his allies at the Union of the Democratic Center. When they sensed the general unease of the lieutenant generals, they decided to create the 23-F.***
We maintain that 23-F was a stunt to get rid of the pressure from those lieutenant generals, strengthen the position of King Juan Carlos I, and give finality to the project. 23-F was, in my opinion, prefabricated and was the final touch to thwart the pressure of the lieutenant generals. It was prefabricated from [the Palace of] Zarzuela, with the support of Felipe González and the other leaders suggested in the transition.
Who kept control of the army facing Tejero and Milans del Bosh and the others in the high command, we wonder? It was the final act of that group of generals of whom we have spoken.
The official version was published by General Manuel Fernández-Monzón Altolaguirre. Naturally, it was silenced in Spain and we had to obtain it from another country.
Hence, the regime was consolidated. Juan Carlos was consolidated, the system was consolidated and finally Felipe González — with the entry into NATO and into Europe — gave a breath of fresh air to a country that had fallen behind. Like Portugal, Greece and Ireland, we received a trillion euros, which made us feel rich and, like Felipe II, we lived beyond our means and were thus unable to resist the 2008 crisis.
Thirty-seven years have passed of [living under] that constitution and that regime supervised by the Americans in their image and likeness. Of course the system is weak in many places, the most delicate being Catalonia but [weak] also from the possible confrontation with the generals. That taboo subject of the transition should be opened.
I have always said, as Salvador Allende would say in his last speech in La Moneda on the radio before dying, sooner rather than later the truth comes out.
*Editor’s Note: The Socialist International is a worldwide association of political parties seeking to establish democratic socialism.
**Editor’s Note: The ETA is the Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, or Basque Country and Freedom, a Basque separatist and nationalist group.
***Editor’s Note: 23-F was an attempted coup d’état in Spain on Feb. 23, 1981, when 200 officers of the civil guard burst into the Congress of Deputies during a vote to elect a prime minister. The coup failed by the following day.