Could there be another coup in Spain?

Publication: Monday February 22, 2021 10:22 PM

40 years have passed since the then nascent Spanish democracy experienced its first major identity crisis: the 23F coup. This episode threatened to overturn the model of government chosen after Franco’s death and to regain a regime closer to what had been experienced during the previous four decades. That day, General Antonio Tejero entered Congress, rifle in hand, with the sole objective of making Alfonso Armada the new Prime Minister. They did not succeed, but the fear that something like this could happen again in the Spanish institutions is still present.

The circumstances today are not those of half a century ago and probably the procedure for carrying out a coup, if it did happen, would be far from that scene of 1981 where 200 soldiers crossed the doors of the Congress of Deputies. Although there are experts who categorically exclude this hypothesis. “We are not going to experience another coup in our country under any circumstances. The Spanish military are perfectly comparable to those in Western Europe and they know their constitutional duties”, assures Roberto Muñoz Bolaños, doctor in contemporary history, to and writer, among others, of “El 23-F y los otros coup d’etat de la Transición” (Espasa, 2021).

The influence of the military on politics

“We have to keep in mind that, in the way the military can intervene, the coup is the most traumatic, the one the military never wants to use. And it is traumatic because it involves breaking the ‘one of the fundamental pillars of the armed forces, like discipline and obedience,’ says Muñoz.

If the military deemed it necessary to intervene in the political sphere, they would do so differently rather than by a coup, according to the Madrid historian. The first option, the “softer”, would be influence, that is, “to let politicians know what the military’s wishes are”. If that route did not work, they would resort to “blackmail, offering chain resignation or threatening force to get civilians to conform to basic political lines.” And if not, they would opt for displacement, that is, for the replacement of one government by another, and in extreme cases for identity theft, which would already mean the occupation of power by the army, according to Muñoz’s explanations on his site.

The armed forces, necessary but only with active military personnel

The expert in military history also explains the role that the armed forces play today. “I don’t think they are a thing of the past or that they should go away. In today’s society there are many dangers, especially in this globalized world, and they are necessary. It is enough to see that all the countries maintain their army and that in some, in particular in the West, a process of empowerment of the armed forces is underway, ”says Muñoz. “In the case of Spain, its members are very aware of their duties and do not go out of it, and that is why they are a key institution in the state,” he says.

Of course, Muñoz insists that those who represent these bodies are only the active military and not those who have already retired. “The armed forces are a permanent institution, but members die. Those who no longer serve have no importance within the army”, specifies the writer. And to illustrate this, he tells an anecdote: “Lieutenant General Carlos Iniesta Cano, who had been Director General of the Civil Guard and was a man of great prestige, wanted to attend a meeting with Tejero on January 17, 1981, shortly before. 23F. But when the meeting was about to start, the military invited him to leave, because he was already retired and could not contribute anything, ”Muñoz explains.

Precisely for this reason, he was not worried about the manifesto signed by more than 400 ex-soldiers in November 2020, discrediting the government and threatening to make a military statement. “Not at all. I don’t give them any relevance because they don’t represent the army, they only represent themselves. The importance of a soldier lies in the command he has and these people do not have no commandments, they do not have They can say whatever they want or write letters as long as they comply with the current legislation, but they do so as citizens. So there is no need for him give more importance, ”asks the writer.

The assault on the Capitol and October 1, nothing to do with 23F

Virtually any threat directed against a country’s government in recent years has been characterized as a coup, with which Muñoz Bolaños does not fully agree. “Strictly speaking, a coup d’état is a direct attack on the executive or legislative power. The takeover of the United States Congress, for example, was an attack on the executive because it was against the Capitol building, but it doesn’t appear at 23F because it was an unorganized operation, ” Muñoz argues.

According to him, the attack on the Capitol on January 6 carried out by protesters and radical groups defending Donald Trump cannot be called a coup d’état because it was not accompanied by a political project behind it and because that those who promoted him were not soldiers, but a group of civilians. “The important thing for a coup to succeed is that there is an armed force behind it, and here there was none. No US military supported the attackers,” explains the historian.

In the case of the illegal referendum on independence that took place in Catalonia on October 1, 2017, there was a plan for political secession, but it could not be considered a coup either because it did not was not organized by the military or received its support, according to Muñoz. “What they look like is that all three acts were illegal. In Catalonia, if we look at the sentence, we see that there is a crime of sedition of political power against the legislation in force. Other jurists say it is a rebellion by the Catalan government, but in any case a coup d’etat is not, ”he concludes.

Back to top button