Yesterday was the 30th anniversary of the attempted right wing coup d’etat in Spain led by Lt. Col Antonio Tejero Molina of the Guardia Civil who, on the 23rd February 1981, forcefully invaded the Spanish parliament. Supported by some 200 armed men, Tejero tried to reverse the course of Spanish democracy which, during a perilous day, nearly returned the country back into a dictatorship.
However, the hero of the day was, undoubtedly, King Juan Carlos who effectively undermined the coup by refusing to take the opportunity of becoming a dictator. Vehemently pro-democrat, King Carlos worked tirelessly to ensure that anyone backing the coup knew that they lacked his support and the crisis passed, amazingly, bloodlessly.
Certainly, King Juan Carlos’ calm handling of the crisis and his determined support for the democratic constitution of Spain (1978) was impressive and has made him, justifiably, an iconic figure within Spain – irrespective of party politics. Indeed, famously the leader of the Spanish communist party at the time, Santiago Carillo, stated: ‘Today, we are all monarchists’.
Without doubt, Spain’s transition from Franco’s dictatorship to democracy was a truly extraordinary time. In fact, that whole period feels like a story from a compelling thriller – as Spain tip toed precariously, from one day to the next, between a future of freedom and democracy and a return to the repression and dark years of dictatorship.
If you want to read something fascinating about this period and the extraordinary culture of Spain at the time – then do have a look at: All the King’s Men. I think you will be mesmerised by what happened!