On February 23, 1981, a lieutenant-colonel of the Civil Guard entered the Lower House of Parliament at the head of 200 men. King Juan Carlos, who will be absent from the commemorations, will cause the coup d’etat to fail.
Spain commemorates on Tuesday the 40th anniversary of the attempted coup of February 23, 1981 in the absence of former King Juan Carlos, who played a key role in the failure of this putsch and in the country’s transition towards democracy. A ceremony will take place in the Chamber of Deputies at noon under the aegis of King Felipe VI, son of Juan Carlos, who will speak, and in the presence of the head of government, the Socialist Pedro Sánchez.
But the big absentee will be Juan Carlos, who abdicated in 2014 and went into exile in August in the United Arab Emirates amid increasing suspicion about the opaque origin of his fortune. The former sovereign, who last year paid nearly 680,000 euros to the Spanish tax authorities in an attempt to avoid money laundering prosecutions, is the subject of a total of three judicial investigations.
Six years after Franco’s death
The image of Lieutenant-Colonel of the Civil Guard Antonio Tejero Molina entering on February 23, 1981, pistol in hand, in the precincts of the Cortes (lower house of Parliament) at the head of nearly 200 of his men remained in history. Less than six years after the death of dictator Francisco Franco, Spain was then in the midst of a democratization process that these soldiers wanted to stop.
But from the Zarzuela Palace, Juan Carlos I, then 43 years old, deploys all his energy to thwart this coup, calling one by one the generals commanding the various military regions of the country and delivering a solemn address to television, dressed in his uniform of captain general of the armed forces.
“The Crown, symbol of the permanence and unity of the homeland, cannot in any way tolerate the actions or attitudes of people who claim to forcibly interrupt the democratic process,” he declared. Tejero and his men will finally agree to surrender on February 24 at midday and release the deputies and ministers they were holding hostage.
Always the subject of debate
For the daily El Mundo, the absence of Juan Carlos, exiled “because of his condemnable errors, should not tarnish the brilliant role he played while commemorating his televised address (…) thus put an end to the putsch and democracy emerged strengthened to the point of being comparable to the best in the West ”.
Forty years after this failed coup, democracy and Spanish institutions are still the subject of debate. Number three in the government, the leader of the radical left-wing Podemos party, Pablo Iglesias, recently stirred up controversy by asserting that there was no “situation of full political and democratic normalcy” in Spain.
In addition, several small parties represented in the Chamber of Deputies, such as the Catalan independence parties Gauche Républicaine de Catalogne and Ensemble pour la Catalogne, decided to boycott the ceremony due to the presence of King Felipe VI.
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