17 Nov, 2023 @ 14:40
3 mins read

‘Stage a coup’: Group of former military leaders in Spain calls for army to rise up and remove Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez from power

Spain’s Pedro Sanchez announces VAT hike on electricity bills: Tax will rise to 10% and could more than double next year
Credit: Chris Kleponis / Pool/Sipa/Cordon Press

A GROUP of 51 retired Franco-era military leaders has written and signed a manifesto in which they call on the army to rise up and stage a coup to remove Socialist Party leader Pedro Sanchez from office as prime minister to make way for a new general election. 

The call from the Association of Spanish Servicemen (AME) comes on the day that Sanchez was sworn in for a new term in office, after winning the support of lawmakers in the Congress of Deputies on Thursday at an investiture vote

The manifesto was obtained by online Spanish newspaper infoLibre, which said that it was not able to find out when the document was due to be released. 

Its content, however, was confirmed to the daily by one of its authors, retired Air Force captain Javier Sanz Arzuaga, and has since been published on the AME’s website. 

In the text, the signatories accuse the executive power of taking control of Spain’s judicial bodies, thus ‘invalidating the independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers’.

The accusations are based on the Socialists’ controversial deals with Catalan separatist parties. 

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez in a file photo.

In exchange for their support at his investiture debate, Sanchez has promised the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) and Together for Catalunya a series of concessions, including the forgiveness of the northeastern region’s debts with the state and, most controversially, an amnesty for anyone involved in the independence drive over the last decade. 

The amnesty has faced fierce opposition from right-wing parties such as the Popular Party and far-right Vox, and brought hundreds of thousands of Spaniards out to protest on Sunday. 

What’s more, for the last nearly two weeks there have been nightly protests – often turning violent – staged by demonstrators outside the Socialists’ headquarters in central Madrid’s Ferraz street. 

According to infoLibre, the main signatory of the letter is the retired general Yago Fernandez de Bobadilla Bufala. The other names include former brigadier generals, colonels and captains. 

The text slams Sanchez for what it describes as ‘the improper use of pardons for the offenders of the October 2017 coup d’état’, in reference to the release by the government of the Catalan politicians and civic leaders who were tried, sentenced and jailed for their roles in the independence drive of that year, which saw an illegal referendum on secession from Spain held followed by a unilateral declaration of independence passed by the regional parliament. 

The manifesto also criticises the government’s ‘removal of [the offence of] sedition from the criminal code and the reduction of punishment in embezzlement solely for political interests’. 

Both of these measures were passed by Sanchez’s administration in a bid to seek a political solution to the tensions between the Catalunya region and the rest of Spain. 

The text argues that the amnesty ‘eliminates the quality of all Spaniards before the law’. 

The AME made headlines in 2018 after it promoted an apologist manifesto for the actions of former Spanish dictator Francisco Franco.

Among those who supported this latest manifesto are members of a WhatsApp group which, in 2020, included a notorious comment stating that ‘there is nothing left to do than to start to execute the 26 million sons-of-bitches’, an apparent reference to support for the mass killings of left-wing voters in Spain. 

That comment also came in the context of conversations about the Catalan drive for independence. “What a pity not to be in active duty service in order to reroute a hot flight [carrying real ammunition] from Bárdenas [firing range] to the headquarters of those sons-of-bitches,” one member of the chat wrote, according to Spanish daily El Pais.

The author was talking about separatist organisation the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), which played a key role in the 2017 independence drive in the region.

A coup d’etat was attempted in Spain back in February 1981, when members of the Civil Guard and the military staged an uprising against the country’s fledgling democracy. Lawmakers in the Congress of Deputies were held hostage for 18 hours, while tanks were rolled out on the streets of Valencia. The coup eventually failed, however, when then-King Juan Carlos I denounced the actions of the civil guards and military leaders, and called for the rule of law and the democratically elected government to continue their course.

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Simon Hunter

Simon Hunter has been living in Madrid since the year 2000 and has worked as a journalist and translator practically since he arrived. For 16 years he was at the English Edition of Spanish daily EL PAÍS, editing the site from 2014 to 2022, and is currently one of the Spain reporters at The Times. He is also a voice actor, and can be heard telling passengers to "mind the gap" on Spain's AVLO high-speed trains.

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