Three historical mysteries of Spain that Franco’s secret law does not allow to reveal



“Of particular importance are those issues whose knowledge by unauthorized persons could damage or endanger the security of the State or the fundamental interests of the Nation and which constitute the true ‘state secrets’.” The ambiguity of Law 9/1968 on official secrets has allowed the Government headed by Pedro Sánchez to hide the reports of the rescue of the ‘Plus Ultra’ airline in 2021. Something ironic if one takes into account that the text was approved during the Francisco Franco dictatorship more than half a century ago and that exudes that whiff of mothballs that the Socialist Party claims to hate so much.

The controversy is served. And more, when we know that ‘Plus Ultra’ cannot get chest of numbers in the last year and that it has ties with the Venezuelan executive.

However, the fact that the Government’s injection of euros does not seem to have helped this marginal and practically unknown airline is as true as Law 9/1968 – better known as the ‘Official Secrets Law’ – hides many other enigmas under its long shadow. historical issues that do not seem to be resolved in the short term. Among them, some cases of violence carried out by the GAL, documents related to the 23-F and the decolonization of the Sahara.

The Mystery of Mr X

Among the biggest secrets that the law prevents from revealing are the reports on the GAL (Antiterrorist Liberation Groups). It is hard not to know its importance in recent history, the one that still throbs in society. However, it is possible that the youngest of the place do not know that these ‘death squads’, as the researcher Luigi Bruni calls them in his works, made themselves known on a large scale on October 16, 1983. That day they kidnapped the alleged ETA members José Antonio Lasa and José Ignacio Zabala. Both, tortured and murdered, began a black era known as that of the ‘war dirty‘ against ETA terrorism.

The GAL took center stage and shook Spain under their maxim, delivered at the end of that year to the authorities: “Because of the increasing homicides, extortion and kidnappings by the terrorist organization ETA in Spanish territory, but programmed and directed on French territory, we have decided to put an end to this situation. Every ETA assassination will find its revenge. The group also reported that not a single victim would remain unanswered, that each murder would have a necessary response and that, very soon, they would have a response from the GAL. They did so for four years, which coincided with the government of Philip Gonzalez.

Felipe González, during a speech in the eighties
Felipe González, during a speech in the eighties – ABC

These vigilante groups claimed a total of 26 lives between alleged members of ETA and people from the ‘abertzale’ orbit. And its stench soon pointed toward the domes of the Home Office. Jose Barrionuevo, then at the head of the organization, repeated ad nauseam that the Government had nothing to do with those kidnappings and murders and that its “responsibility reaches as far as the French border.” After a series of investigations, fingers were also pointed at agents such as José Amedo, whose bank accounts did not stop getting fat. Felipe González supported his work for years: “Amedo, like all other State officials who fight against terrorism, has the right to feel defended by the Government of the nation.”

González had enough to defend himself. In the years that followed, the socialist president was repeatedly peppered with assumptions that he had been the architect of the GAL. Which he always denied, by the way, despite the fact that Amedo himself charged him during a trial in 2011. «I was behind everything“, he claimed. In any case, from the final point of these parapolice groups the tension continues to boil. In fact, it has never stopped boiling. The last turn of the screw was given to this issue last August, when several media outlets published that, although the PSOE supported the repeal of the secrecy law, they welcomed keeping the undeclassified reports on the Groups at the bottom of the drawer. Liberation Counter-Terrorists.

march into the unknown

One of the most secretive events in recent decades has been the decolonization of the sahara; a controversial event that shook Spain in the last moments of the dictator’s life. The culmination of this event hit the press on November 6, 1975, with the country at the gates of Christmas and Franco dying in bed. It was around that time that the King of Morocco, Hassan II, initiated the call ‘green gear‘. Wrapped in the support of the United States, the monarch called for the “peaceful” invasion of this territory after The Hague rejected his claims on it. His plan was to reach El Ayoun, where he promised to have tea in less than a week.

According to ABC, 350,000 civilians and 25,000 soldiers responded to Hassan II’s call “In eleven days of general mobilization, 225,000 volunteers from 22 Moroccan provinces have made a stopover in Marrakech, where they have attended the parade of the 580 trucks that they are going to undertake the route to the south, among the popular delirium, ”said the special envoy of this newspaper to the Sahara. The march started in Tarfaya and stopped hours later at the border. Although for a short time. Just enough for the Moroccan government to inform its Spanish counterpart that this human avalanche was unstoppable and that, if they did not withdraw their forces, there would be clashes in the area.

Spanish Soldier at His Post, Guarding the Known As "green gear"
Spanish Soldier at his Post, Guarding the Known as “Green March” – ABC

Spain backed down halfway. In principle, he limited himself to withdrawing his men to the city of El Aaiún with the objective in mind that the capital was not taken. It has transpired that several clashes took place between Moroccans and Spaniards, although the tight control that the dictatorship exercised over the press makes it impossible to know the true extent of the fighting. In any case, it did not take many shots for Madrid to prefer to fold sails and succumb to political pressure from Morocco. And this, despite the fact that Hassan II knew that it was unfeasible for that mob to take over Aaiún without causing a real carnage.

But the pressure worked and the predictions of the Moroccan monarch were fulfilled: “The march will not last more than a few hours if we reach an agreement with Spain in three days.” He flat out hit. On November 10, just four days after the beginning of the ‘Green March’, Hassan II ordered the withdrawal of the gigantic convoy that was heading towards Ayoun and announced that he was going to “empty the Spanish Sahara and go back again to the old positions of Tarfaya». On the 14th of that same month, the crisis came to an end when the Government confirmed that it had started negotiations to sign the Madrid Tripartite Agreements: the delivery of the territory to Morocco and Mauritania. The controversy, however, continues to rise, as there are more dark than light when referring to these nightmarish days.

“Everybody quiet”

The third event whose reports remain hidden under this law can be summed up in one sentence… “Quiet everyone! Down!”. With these shouts and holding a Star BM pistol in his right hand, Lieutenant Colonel entered Antonio Tejero in the Congress of Deputies February 23, 1981. It was at 6:23 in the afternoon, when deputy Manuel Núñez Encabo had been called to vote. And it is that, that day the investiture debate of Leopoldo Calvo Sotelo as president was being held after the resignation of an Adolfo Suárez (UCD) already cornered politically. The Civil Guard did not arrive alone. He was accompanied by forty comrades willing, it seemed, to execute the “change of direction” that some hidden sectors of Spain had been asking for months.

The next few minutes were spent by their lordships, with few exceptions, facing the ground. Weapons are weapons. The movement of uniformed men became general in the room, and his obsession with informative silence was evident. After all, the phrase that one of the assailants snapped at the reporters became famous: “Don’t try to touch the camera, I’ll kill you.” In spite of everything, the bravery of the journalists allowed that, in hindsight, the whole world listened to the captain’s words Jesus Dolls Aguilar, Tejero’s subordinate: «Good afternoon, Nothing is going to happen, but we are going to wait a moment for the competent military authority to come to order… what it has to be and what he himself… tells all of us . Or stay calm. I don’t know if it will be a matter of a quarter of an hour, twenty minutes, half an hour… I imagine no more».

Surrender after almost 18 hours of tension
Surrender after almost 18 hours of tension – ABC

That authority never appeared before the deputies. Shortly after, at about seven in the evening, the coup continued its course. At that time Jaime Milans del Bosch, a military worshiper of the old regime and captain general of the III Military Region, took, as they say, the tanks to the streets of Valencia. On paper, his excuse was lack of government. Unofficially, he hoped that a coup de force like that would cause the rest of the territories to rise up against democracy. Meanwhile, the many loyal soldiers and police surrounded the Congress under the command of Jose Luis Aramburu Topete (director general of the Civil Guard) and Juan Carlos I began an extensive round of calls to all the Military Regions, making clear their total support for democracy.

Regardless of who that “white elephant” was, it all ended at one o’clock that morning. It was then that Juan Carlos I, dressed in his uniform as captain general of the armies, addressed a historic speech to the Spanish. “Given the situation created by the events that took place in the Palace of Congress and to avoid any possible confusion, I confirm that I have ordered the Civil Authorities and the Joint Chiefs of Staff to take all necessary measures to maintain constitutional order within current law”.

A message to Milans del Bosch caused the tanks to return to their garages, which meant the final blow for Tejero. He had no choice but to abandon the kidnapping of the deputies and sign the surrender on February 24 on the hood of a car. In exchange for retiring, yes, the already tired lieutenant colonel obtained the Government’s promise that all those Civil Guard present in the Hemicycle whose rank was lieutenant or less, would not suffer legal reprisals.

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