Level Ground, 59 & 60. Pardon Me.

Plenty of protest has gone up among the conservative politicians of a possible pardon of those condemned for the Catalan independence referendum. They were condemned to prison for sedition for going ahead with the independence referendum a few years ago, even after the central government (in the hands of the conservative Partido Popular, then) had nixed the idea.

The present Socialist coalition government would like to pardon these Catalan leaders to try to weaken the independence cause, and start talking with the Catalans. It's the first step toward bringing them back into the national fold. 

But the conservative parties see this as anathema, and are raising their voices in holy anger, claiming that Prime Minister Sánchez is bowing to the independents' attempts to destroy Spain. Even the Supreme Court has recommended that the Catalan leaders not be pardoned. 

How quickly we forget things. Back in 1981, on the 23rd of February, Lieutenant Colonel of the Guardia Civil, Antonio Tejero, walked into the Congreso, fired shots in the air, and held the entire Spanish government hostage in a coup attempt to reinstate a dictatorship. He, General Alfonso Armada (who had been King Juan Carlos' personal tutor), Lieutenant General Jaime Miláns del Bosch, and various others, were condemned for military rebellion, and sent to prison. Before 1990, all of them had had their sentences reduced and ended, or had been pardoned, such as Alfonso Armada and Jaime Miláns del Bosch. Only Antonio Tejero served a total of fifteen years out of a thirty year sentence, and was never pardoned. Yet, the Spanish Supreme Court of the time recommended that Tejero be pardoned, as well.

Of these condemned, one, Jaime Miláns del Bosch, was also involved in a conspiracy to produce another coup in October of 1982, on the eve of the general election of that year. He advised the three that were finally arrested for the attempt, Colonels Luís Muñoz Gutiérrez and Jesús Crespo Cuspinera, and Lieutenant Colonel José Crespo Cuspinera. These men had hatched a plan to create chaos in Madrid on the eve of Election Day, October 27th. There were to be bombs, and the military would fan out in concentric circles around the city, taking the strategic points, blame the chaos on the Basque terrorists, ETA, and declare martial law. Miláns del Bosch would then be liberated, and lead the country into a new dictatorship.

Miláns del Bosch was never charged with being involved in this conspiracy. He was simply moved to a different prision, and later pardoned. The other three, however, were not pardoned, to my knowledge, and one of them died of a heart attack while in prison. This coup attempt had been stopped before any shots were fired. 

That wasn't the last time an armed attempt on Spanish democracy was tried. Or, rather, planned. In 1985, on June 2nd, the Día de las Fuerzas Armadas, Day of the Armed Forces, there was to be a military parade in A Coruña. Most of the government would be there, including King Juan Carlos and his family, except the Prince, who I believe was studying abroad at the time. The implicated officers planned to rent a building with a basement in front of the area where the officials would be standing, carve out a tunnel into the street, and plant a hundred kilos of explosives there, which would be detonated at the appropriate moment. Their plan came to naught when the intelligence agency, the CESID (Centro Superior de Información de Defensa, later replaced by the Centro Nacional de Inteligencia) let the conspirators know that they were being closely watched. No one was ever arrested or detained for this conspiracy. 

So, people condemned to prison for military rebellion, with actual weapons, were pardoned, yet the Catalans condemned for sedition, because they held an illegal referendum, are considered dangerous if they are released. I have yet to hear anyone on the right side of the political aisle admit that perhaps the military officers who actually used weapons in their attempt to destroy Spanish democracy, should have served out their complete prison sentences. Some people consider an urn much more dangerous than a gun. Keep that in mind the next time you vote. 

Life continues.

General Armada, who was pardoned for the 1981 coup.



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