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By Gene B. Stafford, Don Greer

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Its author is the journalist Jesús Palacios; its thesis is that, contrary to what appearances seem to suggest, the 23 February coup was not an improvised and botched job by an imperfect combination of hard-core Francoist military officers and monarchist military officers with political ambitions, but rather ‘a designer coup’, an operation planned down to the last detail by CESID – by Major Cortina but also by Lieutenant Colonel Calderón, his immediate superior and at the time the strong man of the intelligence services – whose purpose was not to destroy democracy but to trim it or change its direction, getting the premiership away from Adolfo Suárez and putting a military man in his place at the head of a government of salvation made up of representatives of all the political parties; according to Palacios, with this objective Calderón and Cortina had counted not only on the implicit consent or impetus of the King, anxious to overcome the crisis to which the country had been driven by the chronic crises of Suárez governments: Calderón and Cortina had selected the operation’s leader – General Armada, the King’s former secretary – had encouraged its operational branches – General Milans del Bosch and Lieutenant Colonel Tejero – and had woven an intricate conspiratorial web of military men, politicians, businessmen, journalists and diplomats that assembled scattered and contrasting ambitions in the common cause of the coup.

That’s why the hero of retreat is more than a political hero: he is also a moral hero. Enzensberger gives three examples of this innovative figure: Mikhail Gorbachev, who at the time was trying to dismantle the Soviet Union; Wojciech Jaruzelski, who in 1981 had prevented a Soviet invasion of Poland; Adolfo Suárez, who had dismantled the Franco regime. Adolfo Suárez a hero? And not just politically, but a moral hero? For the right as well as the left that was a difficult one to swallow: the left could not forget – had no reason to forget – that, although after a given moment he wanted to be a progressive politician, and up to a certain point he managed to be, Suárez was for many years a loyal collaborator with Francoism and a perfect prototype of the arriviste that the Franco regime’s institutionalized corruption favoured; the right could not forget – should not have forgotten – that Suárez never accepted his attachment to the right, that many policies he applied or advocated were not right-wing and no other Spanish politician of the second half of the twentieth century has exasperated the right as much as he did.

But thinking it through perhaps his imagination is too slight; thinking it through, on the evening of 23 February Suárez was perhaps not posing just for the newspapers and television screens: just as he would from that moment on in his political life – just as if in that moment he’d known who he truly was – perhaps Suárez was posing for history. That’s maybe another gesture his gesture contains: a posthumous gesture, so to speak. Because the fact is that at least for its main leaders the 23 February coup was not exactly a coup against democracy: it was a coup against Adolfo Suárez; or if you prefer: it was a coup against the kind of democracy Adolfo Suárez embodied for them.

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