Publication: Tuesday, February 23, 2021 5:51 AM
Four decades have passed since Lt. Col. Antonio Tejero and 200 other military officers stormed Congress at 6:22 p.m. on February 23, 1981 to prevent the appointment of Leopoldo Calvo Sotelo as the new prime minister. The feeling, however, is that there is still a lot to be said about what surrounded this coup and that there are issues that may never be revealed.
One of the people who helped to continue to “ dust off ” the information on this historic episode is Roberto Muñoz Bolaños, doctor in contemporary history and professor at the Center for Master Studies and at Francisco de Vitoria, Camilo José Cela and General Gutiérrez University Institute Mellado (UNED).
In his latest book, “ El 23-F y los otros coup d’état de la Transición ”, (Espasa, 2021), Muñoz explores the different phases of the coup d’état in the context of the transition to democracy, with an emphasis on the most conservative economic, political and military elite. This group, the author says, promoted a “parallel transition” to moderate political change in Spain, of which the 23F was only the culmination.
Secrets and contradictions hidden in the summary
Although he has now become an expert on the 1981 coup, Muñoz entered his study almost anecdotally. “It was a little shocking, I had never been interested in this subject. I have always been a specialist in military history and my interest was the conspiracy that led to the civil war of 1936. But one day I was having a drink with defense lawyer Antonio Tejero, who is a friend of my family, and he told me he had the 23F summary and that if I wanted to take a look. I was so excited that I have been studying the subject for 26 years, ”Muñoz tells laSexta.com.
Regarding the audience and the sentences he read about this coup, he found almost all surprises. “As soon as I opened the first volume, the difference between what the books said and what I had read in the summary caught my attention. She didn’t agree on anything, ”recalls the author. What surprised him most, he said, was that in José Oneto’s “La noche de Tejero” (Espasa, 1981), it was commented that Generals Alfonso Armada and Jaime Milans del Bosch were not not very monarchical, but reading the summary “you realize that they were the most monarchical in the Spanish army.” “These contradictions caught my attention,” he admits.
Of course, he assures us that when it comes to the coup as such, there are no secrets. “What happens between the entry of the military at 6:22 pm and the departure the next day appears very detailed in the summary. A coherent account can be written about it without any difficulty.” The same is true, according to Muñoz, with the period from February 16 to 23, 1981, when the operation was completed.
“The problem stems from what happened before. We know that on February 3, General Armada informed Milans del Bosch that the king was going to nominate him as a candidate and that he was going to be president. However, on February 12, the candidate is Calvo What we do not know is what happened at that time, what was the political environment for this change to occur, ”explains the historian.
23F, the end of the “ parallel transition ” path
As Muñoz Bolaños recounts, the 1981 coup was nothing more than the conclusion of a dynamic that had started in 1977. That year, Adolfo Suárez launched a “process of complete democratization” that included the opening of a constituent process, the legalization of the Communist Party and which laid the foundations of a welfare state far from Francoism.
For Suárez, this change was necessary if Spain wanted to join the European Economic Community, but a conservative elite believed that this round of government broke with the project for which it had been chosen by the king, as detailed in the work of Muñoz. At that time, this group began a process of “parallel transition” with the aim of “removing Suárez from the presidency, controlling the political decision-making process and making a very moderate change that would allow this elite to retain its privileges ”. lists the writer.
Among them, there were not only members of the armed forces: there were also bankers, politicians like López Ródó, who had been Minister of Foreign Affairs under Franco, or the journalist Luis María Anson, whom Armada had placed in the magazine “ Reconquista ” before starting to justify the coup, adds the author, who explains that this would mean that the coup was not only military, but also involved a civil plot.
In this way, various operations were organized from 1977 to make the Armada president. “The intention was to do so legally, through a motion of censure against Suárez, but since the king ended up electing Calvo Sotelo, that path was cut short. The military arm of this elite unleashed a coup d’état with the same goal, ”says Muñoz.
In this sense, “Operation Galaxy” of 1978 could be the germ of 23F. This plan, concocted by Tejero, was similar to what happened three years later: the military would storm the Moncloa Palace and take the Council of Ministers hostage. The plan remained a simple idea but helped shape future strategies. “Tejero was obsessed with taking Congress and ultimately that option was chosen. The idea was for Tejero to storm the building, for the Armada to present itself as the savior of democracy and for parliamentarians to vote him president.” , comments Muñoz. What no one told Tejero, according to the author himself, is that the consequences for the general would always be negative: if the coup was successful, he should go into exile and if he does not. didn’t, he would end up in jail, which finally happened.
These were the coup plans
“First of all, it must be said that the coup d’etat did not succeed but that it could have done perfectly,” warns Muñoz Bolaños. “Tejero prevented the Armada from entering the hemicycle when he found out what he wanted to do. If he were to enter Congress, Armada would probably have been elected president, with Felipe González as political vice-president and José María López de Letona as economic vice-president ”, predicts the author of“ The 23F and the other coups d’état of the transition ”.
This government, according to Muñoz, would have lasted about two years and would have acted in four main areas: the fight against terrorism, the way out of the economic crisis, the freezing or harmonization of the autonomous process and constitutional reform.
“The most serious aspect of this hypothesis is that the military would have participated in political decision-making again and that the transition would have been a failure, as one of its objectives was to end military power within politics, ”sighs the writer. . “It is true that two years later elections would have taken place, but the whole path taken to establish civil supremacy in Spain would have been traced.”
Although he also believes that the company would have accepted this supposed navy-led government because “almost all ministers would have been civilians”. In addition, it excludes that a violent environment was experienced in the streets. “Of course, there would be no executions, because the elites’ goal was more political than economic. They wanted to bring Spain closer to the rest of the European democracies and by executing they would have achieved only one an international boycott, maybe a revolutionary process, in three or four months and of course irreversible consequences for the Crown and for this elite, ”Muñoz explains.