Juan Negrín

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Juan Negrín

Juan Negrín en Barcelona 1938.jpg
Negrín in 1938
Prime Minister of Spain
In office
17 May 1937 – 31 March 1939
PresidentManuel Azaña
Preceded byFrancisco Largo Caballero
Succeeded byJosé Miaja
Minister of National Defence
In office
5 April 1938 – 31 March 1939
Prime MinisterHimself
Preceded byIndalecio Prieto
Succeeded bySegismundo Casado
Minister of the Treasury
In office
5 April 1938 – 31 March 1939
Prime MinisterFrancisco Largo Caballero
Preceded byEnrique Ramos Ramos
Succeeded byFrancisco Méndez Aspe
Member of the Congress of Deputies
In office
16 March 1936 – 31 March 1939
ConstituencyLas Palmas
In office
8 December 1933 – 7 January 1936
In office
14 July 1931 – 9 October 1933
ConstituencyLas Palmas
Personal details
Juan Negrín y López

(1892-02-03)3 February 1892
Las Palmas, Gran Canaria
Died12 November 1956(1956-11-12) (aged 64)
Paris, France
Political partySpanish Socialist Workers' Party (1929–1946)
Spouse(s)María Fidelman Brodsky

Juan Negrín y López (Spanish pronunciation: [xwan neˈɣɾin]; 3 February 1892 – 12 November 1956) was a Spanish politician and physician. He was a leader of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) and served as finance minister. He was President of the Council of Ministers of the Second Spanish Republic several times between 1937 and 1945, already in exile. He was the last Loyalist premier of Spain (1937–1939), and presided over the defeat of the Republican forces by the rebel faction under General Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War. He died in exile in Paris, France.

None of the leaders of the Second Spanish Republic has been as vilified as Negrín, not only by Francoist historians, but also by important sectors of the exiled Spanish Left, including the leadership of his own Socialist Party and as his friend-turned-nemesis Indalecio Prieto. He has been depicted as the principal responsible for losing the civil war, and has been charged with a dictatorial leadership style, selling Spain out to the Communists and robbing the Spanish treasury.[1] According to the historian Stanley G. Payne, after the end of the civil war there was no person more hated than Negrín.[2] The PSOE expelled Negrín in 1946, but he was posthumously rehabilitated in 2008.

Early years[edit]

Born in Las Palmas on the Canary Islands, Negrín came from a deeply Catholic middle-class family.[3] His father, Juan Negrin Cabrera, was a prosperous and reputable merchant and businessman of the islands, married to María Dolores López Marrero. Juan was the firstborn son and had one brother Heriberto, who adhered to the Claretian order, and a sister Dolores. [4][5] Since Juan had excelled in science subjects and had shown an interest in medicine, his father decided to send him, at the age of 15, to study in Germany in 1906, attracted by the enormous prestige of German universities at the time.[4][5]

In Germany[edit]

Negrin studied for two years at the Medical Faculty of Kiel. In 1908, to specialize in medical physiology, he moved to Leipzig, to the best physiology institute of Germany and even in Europe.[5] He stayed in Germany for almost a decade, studying first medicine, then chemistry and to some extent, economics. He proved to be a brilliant student with extraordinary capacity for scientific research. In 1912 (when he was only twenty years old) he obtained a doctorate in medicine and was immediately incorporated into the Institute of Physiology in Leipzig as a research assistant and then as an assistant professor.[5]

On 21 July 1914 he married María Fidelman Brodsky, a piano student and daughter of a wealthy family of Russian exiles living in the Netherlands. The couple had five children, three of whom survived: Juan, Rómulo, and Miguel.[4] Negrín spoke English, French, German,[3] and Russian, in addition to his native Spanish.[6]

Back to Spain[edit]

At the end of 1915, in the middle of the First World War, the increasing difficulties he encountered in Germany to continue working prompted Negrin to return to Spain. He already had a solid professional prestige guaranteed by his research on the adrenal glands and the central nervous system and by a remarkable series of articles published in the best scientific journals in Europe. [5] He was a pupil of Santiago Ramón y Cajal,[7] who won the Nobel Prize of Medicine. In 1919 he obtained his medical degree in Spain, and in 1922 he became a professor of physiology[8] at the Complutense University of Madrid at the age of 29.[5][9]

During his stay in Germany, Negrin had become very close to German social democracy, then at one of the moments of its maximum height and socio-political and cultural influence, but far removed from his conservative family tradition. Negrín joined the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) in the spring of 1929, at the height of the crisis of the dictatorship of General Miguel Primo de Rivera and the monarchy of Alfonso XIII.[10] He aligned himself from the very beginning and with the moderate and reformist faction headed by Indalecio Prieto – with whom he forged a close friendship that only broke down due to the civil war – and opposed to the one led by Francisco Largo Caballero, representing the left (Marxist and revolutionary) wing of the UGT trade union and the PSOE.[11][12] In 1931 he was elected deputy for Las Palmas in the Canary Islands.[10]

Spanish Civil War[edit]

After the military uprising in Morocco on 17 July 1936, Spain was rapidly divided in two: a "Republican" or "Loyalist" Spain consisting of the Second Spanish Republic, and a "Nationalist" Spain under the insurgent generals, and, eventually, under the leadership of General Francisco Franco. From the first moment of the war, Negrin combined his activities as a deputy and, later, as a minister, with frequent visits in his private car to different places on the front line of Madrid to encourage the combatants and provide them with food and supplies. Negrín helped many people to escape from the revolutionary checas in July and August 1936.[7] His personal courage in pursuit of this was attested to by a friend who recounted that he "made every effort, at considerable risk to himself... to save people in Madrid."[13] As a result, Negrin was nearly killed by anarchists but was saved by the intervention of finance ministry security staff.[14]

Minister of Finance[edit]

A meeting of the Largo Caballero cabinet in 1936

He was named Minister of Finance in September 1936 in the government of Francisco Largo Caballero.[15] As the finance minister, he built up the Carabineros (custom guards), a force of 20,000 men[16] which was later nicknamed the "Hundred Thousand Sons of Negrín"[17] (an allusion to the Hundred Thousand Sons of Saint Louis), in order to recover the control of the French frontier posts, which had been seized by the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT).[18][19] He took the controversial decision to transfer the Spanish gold reserves to the Soviet Union in return for arms to continue the war (October 1936).[20] Worth $500 million at the time[21] (another $240 million had been sent to France in July),[22] critics argued that this action put the Republican government under the control of Joseph Stalin.[23]

Prime minister[edit]

On 17 May 1937, President Manuel Azaña (after Largo was dismissed) named Negrín the 135th Prime Minister of Spain,[24] to end to the indiscipline and disarray in the rearguard.[25] Negrín's government included Indalecio Prieto named minister of War, Navy and Air, Julián Zugazagoitia as minister of interior (both socialists), the communists Jesús Hernández Tomás as minister of education and Vicente Uribe as minister of agriculture, the republicans José Giral as foreign minister and Bernardo Giner de los Ríos as public works minister, the Basque Manuel Irujo as minister of justice and the Catalan Nationalist Jaume Aiguader as minister of labour.[26]


Negrin's main objectives were to fortify the central government,[27] to reorganize and fortify the Spanish Republican Armed Forces[10] and to impose law and order in the Republican-held area,[28][29] against largely independent armed militias of the labor unions (CNT) and parties, thus curtailing the revolution inside the Republic. He also wanted to break the international isolation of the Republic in order to get the arms embargo lifted,[8] and from 1938 to search an international mediation in order to finish the war.[30] He also wished to normalize the position of the Catholic Church inside the Republic.[31] All this was intended to connect the Spanish conflict with Second World War, which he believed to be imminent, although the Munich Agreement definitively made all hope of outside aid vanish.[32]

Military situation[edit]

President Azaña and Negrín (wearing a light-coloured coat in the middle) visit a republican front on the outskirts of Barcelona accompanied by two of the main military authorities of the Republic: Vicente Rojo Lluch and José Miaja, in November 1937.

On the military level, along 1937 he launched a series of offensives in June (Huesca & Segovia), July, Brunete and August, Belchite, in order to halt the Nationalist offensive in the North, but all failed and by October the Nationalists had occupied all of the Northern territory. Beginning December, he launched an offensive in order to free Teruel, but by February the Republican Army had to retreat after suffering heavy losses and the rebel faction launched a counter-offensive in Aragon, cutting in half the Republican-held zone. On July 1938 Negrín launched an offensive in order to cross the Ebro River and reconnect the two Republican-held zones. The Republican army managed to cross the Ebro, but by November had to retire after it suffered heavy casualties and lost most of its materiel. Finally, on February 1939, he ordered to launch an offensive in Extremadura to stop the Nationalists advancement in their offensive against Catalonia, but was halted after a few days and Catalonia fell.

PCE's support[edit]

Although Negrín had always been a centrist in the PSOE, he maintained links with the Spanish Communist Party (PCE), whose policies at that point were in favor of a Popular Front alignment. Negrín relied on the Communists to curtail the Anarchist wing of the Spanish Left, and was forced to rely on the Soviet Union, then led by Joseph Stalin, for weapons and armament, because of the arms embargo imposed by the Non-Intervention Committee.[33]

Home front[edit]

The military situation of the Spanish Republic deteriorated steadily under Negrín's government, largely because of the superior quality of the opposing generals and officers many of whom were veterans of the Rif War, and by 1938 the overwhelming advantage of the rebels in terms of men (20%), aircraft and artillery provided by Germany and Italy.[34] Throughout 1938, the unremitting succession of serious military defeats and the failure of all the provisions of Franco-British aid[clarification needed], was reflected in a deterioration of material living conditions in the rear (especially in terms of food) that deeply affected the political morale of the popular and military resistance of the Republican side. [35] Late 1938, the freezing and half starved civilian population in the Siege of Madrid was suffering from severe malnutrition due to the restricted daily ration of 100 grams of bread and lentils (nicknamed "Dr Negrín’s pills").[36][25] Disheartened by a fifth column, a war weariness took hold of Madrid and defeatism was widespread. [25]

Peace negotiations[edit]

On May 1938, Negrín issued the "Thirteen Points" (Trece Puntos), a program for peace negotiations, including absolute independence of Spain, liberty of conscience, protection of the regional liberties, universal suffrage, an amnesty for all Spaniards and agrarian reform, but Franco rejected any peace deal.[37][38] Before the fall of Catalonia he proposed, in the meeting of the Cortes in Figueres, capitulation with the sole condition of respecting the lives of the vanquished and the holding of a plebiscite so the Spanish people could decide the form of government, but Franco rejected the new peace deal.[39] On 9 February 1939, he moved to the Central Zone (30% of the Spanish territory) with the intention of defending the remaining territory of the republic until the start of the general European conflict,[40] and organize the evacuation of those most at risk.[41] Negrín thought that there was no other course but resistance, because the Nationalists refused to negotiate any peace deal.[42]

To fight on because there was no other choice, even if winning was not possible, then to salvage what we could – and at the very end our self respect... Why go on resisting? Quite simply because we knew what capitulation would mean.[43]

Casado's coup[edit]

However, Colonel Segismundo Casado, joined by José Miaja, Julián Besteiro (the leader of the PSOE right-wing faction), Cipriano Mera and disillusioned anarchist leaders, tired of fighting, which they regarded then as hopeless, planned a coup d'état.[44] Seeking better surrender terms, they seized power in Madrid on 5 March 1939, created the National Defence Council (Consejo Nacional de Defensa), and deposed Negrín.[45] On 6 March, Negrín fled to France.[46] Although the troops led by the PCE rejected the coup on Madrid they were defeated by Cipriano Mera's troops.[47] The Junta tried to negotiate a peace deal with the nationalists, but Franco only accepted an unconditional surrender of the Republic.[48] Finally all the members of the Junta (except Besteiro) fled, and by 31 March 1939 the Nationalists seized all the Spanish territory.[49]

Exile and death[edit]

Commemorative plaque, 78 bis, avenue Henri-Martin, 16th arr., Paris

Unlike Spanish President Manuel Azaña, Negrín remained in Spain until the final collapse of the Republican front and his fall from office in March 1939.[50] Negrín decided to openly support the Franco-British war effort against Germany and Italy, remaining in Paris until the fall of France (June 1940) and then going to London. He resided there throughout the world war, repeatedly refusing to leave Europe and seek safe haven in Mexico, as did a large number of the Republican leadership.[51] He organized the S.E.R.E. (Servicio de Evacuación de Refugiados Españoles)[52] to help Republican exiles. He remained prime minister of the Spanish Republican government in Exile between 1939 and 1945 (although ignored by most of the exiled political forces).[53]

The Francoist dictatorship stripped Negrín of his academic position[54] and confiscated his estate. In July 1941 he was sentenced to the exorbitant fine of 100 million pesetas by the Special Court of the Law of Political Responsibilities, while in September 1941, the Special Court for the Repression of Freemasonry and Communism sentenced him to 30 years in prison (the maximum penalty, even though Negrin was neither a Mason nor a Communist).[55] His father was imprisoned in Las Palmas for the mere fact of being his father, leaving prison in 1941 to die shortly thereafter in poverty after having been illegally expropriated of all his property.[56]

In August 1945, at the end of the Second World War with the defeat of the Axis powers, Negrin tried to gather the unanimous support of all the political forces in exile in order to offer a unitary republican front that could gather the support of the allied governments against Franco's dictatorship, taking advantage of his international discredit and the strong rejection that his recent behaviour of sympathy and support for the Italian-German war effort had provoked.[51] In Negrin's opinion, only such a united front would serve as a guarantee before Washington and London of the presence of a replacement alternative to the Franco regime that did not run the risk of resuming the horrors of civil war. However, in view of the impossibility of gaining the support of all the political forces in exile, Negrín resigned from his position as head of the government of the Republic in exile before the plenary session of the Cortes in exile meeting in Mexico in August 1945.[51]

The PSOE expelled Negrín and a number of additional party members through a note published in El Socialista on 23 April 1946,[57][n. 1] before the celebration of a party congress in Toulouse. He died from a heart attack in Paris on 12 November 1956 at the age of 64.[58][59][60]


According to the historian Stanley G. Payne, after the end of the civil war there was no person more hated. Franco's side considered him a "red traitor", while within the Republican camp, some of his former allies reproached him for the "useless" prolongation of the war and for having "served" the plans of the Soviet Union.[2] However, a New York Times editorial at the time of his demise characterized Negrín as follows:

It will be long before the figure of Don Juan Negrín stands before history in clear outline. He aroused great passions in his life and made many bitter enemies, as he did devoted friends. The Franco regime labeled Dr. Negrín falsely as a "Red." He never was remotely that. As Premier under desperate circumstances, Dr. Negrín accepted the support of Russia, the only country aiding Republican Spain or backing her in the League of Nations. His own government was never dominated by the Communists. It was a Popular Front, dominated by Juan Negrín. For many in and out of Spain Dr. Negrín represented much that was finest about Republican Spain and the Spaniards who fought so bravely and forlornly against fascism. He never had anything to fear from history.[61]

Gabriel Jackson's biography depicts Negrín as "a fundamentally honest and decent human being who sacrificed his health, reputation, and academic career in a failed attempt to save his country from disaster,"[1] and as "an accomplished scientist and cosmopolitan intellectual who in normal circumstances would have never had to become a politician, let alone take his country’s reins during the most difficult years of its long history."[1] Nevertheless, Juan Negrín was one of the most controversial characters of the Spanish Civil War. "Demonized or praised, Negrin has been considered both a faithful servant of the permanent communist conspiracy in the pay of Moscow, and the most loyal politician to the Republican cause because of his faith in the final triumph, or he has been defined as a kind of seer who knew how to predict the inexorability of the Second World War, so that his policy of resistance at all costs ("resistir es vencer", "to resist is to win") would have led to the victory of the Republic, if the Spanish war had lasted five more months."[62] Negrín was post-humously rehabilitated by the PSOE in 2008.[57]


First Negrín cabinet: 17 May 1937 – 5 April 1938[edit]

Ministry Officeholder Party
Prime Minister. Finance and Economy Juan Negrín López Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE)
State José Giral Republican Left (IR)
Justice Manuel de Irujo Ollo Basque Nationalist Party (PNV)
Mariano Ansó Zunzarren (from 10 December 1937) Republican Left (IR)
National Defense Indalecio Prieto Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE)
Interior Julián Zugazagoitia Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE)
Public Education and Health' Jesús Hernández Tomás Communist Party of Spain (PCE)
Public Works and Communications Bernardo Giner de los Ríos Republican Union (UR)
Labor and Social Assistance Jaume Aiguader Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC)
José Moix Regás (from 18 August 1937) Unified Socialist Party of Catalonia (PSUC)
Agriculture Vicente Uribe Communist Party of Spain (PCE)

Second Negrín Cabinet: 5 April 1938 – 6 March 1939[edit]

Ministry Officeholder Party
Prime Minister, National Defense Juan Negrín López Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE)
State' Julio Álvarez del Vayo Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE)
Interior Paulino Gómez Sáenz Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE)
Justice Ramón González Peña Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE)
Agriculture Vicente Uribe Communist Party of Spain (PCE)
Public Education and Health Segundo Blanco Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT)
Finance and Economy Francisco Méndez Aspe Republican Left (IR)
Public Works Antonio Velao Oñate Republican Left (IR)
Communications and Transport Bernardo Giner de los Ríos Republican Union (UR)
Labor and Social Assistance Jaume Aiguader Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC)
Without portfolio José Giral Republican Left (IR)
Without portfolio Manuel de Irujo Ollo Basque Nationalist Party (PNV)


  1. ^ The membership of Negrín had been suspended already since the Casado coup in 1939.[57]


  1. ^ a b c Faber 2011.
  2. ^ a b Payne 2007, p. 275.
  3. ^ a b Thomas 2003, p. 647.
  4. ^ a b c Biografía.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Moradiellos 2000, p. 247-248.
  6. ^ Jackson 1967, p. 393.
  7. ^ a b Thomas 2003, p. 646.
  8. ^ a b Graham 2005, p. 95.
  9. ^ Beevor 2006, p. 272.
  10. ^ a b c Preston 2006, p. 260.
  11. ^ Beevor 2006, p. 28.
  12. ^ Jackson 1967, p. 208–209.
  13. ^ Preston 2012, p. 291.
  14. ^ Preston 2012, p. 292.
  15. ^ Beevor 2006, p. 147.
  16. ^ Jackson 1967, p. 339.
  17. ^ Beevor 2006, p. 228.
  18. ^ Beevor 2006, p. 263.
  19. ^ Thomas 2003, pp. 647–648.
  20. ^ Jackson 1967, p. 317–318.
  21. ^ Thomas 2003, p. 435.
  22. ^ Thomas 2003, pp. 434–437.
  23. ^ Beevor 2006, p. 303.
  24. ^ Beevor 2006, p. 271.
  25. ^ a b c Fraser 2011.
  26. ^ Thomas 2003, p. 651.
  27. ^ Jackson 1967, p. 405.
  28. ^ Preston 2006, p. 259.
  29. ^ Jackson 1967, p. 402.
  30. ^ Graham 2005, p. 100.
  31. ^ Graham 2005, p. 104–105.
  32. ^ Graham 2005, p. 110–111.
  33. ^ Preston 2006, pp. 190–191.
  34. ^ Graham 2005, p. 96.
  35. ^ Moradiellos 2000, p. 254.
  36. ^ Moradiellos 2000, p. 245.
  37. ^ Thomas 2003, p. 798.
  38. ^ Beevor 2006, pp. 338–339.
  39. ^ Beevor 2006, pp. 380–381.
  40. ^ Preston 2006, pp. 295–296.
  41. ^ Graham 2005, p. 111.
  42. ^ Thomas 2003, p. 867.
  43. ^ Graham 2005, p. 87.
  44. ^ Beevor 2006, pp. 391–392.
  45. ^ Thomas 2003, p. 876–879.
  46. ^ Thomas 2003, p. 879–882.
  47. ^ Thomas 2003, p. 883–884.
  48. ^ Preston 2006, p. 298.
  49. ^ Preston 2006, pp. 298–299.
  50. ^ Beevor 2006, p. 393.
  51. ^ a b c Moradiellos 2000, p. 261.
  52. ^ Beevor 2006, p. 413.
  53. ^ Beevor 2006, p. 423.
  54. ^ Otero Carvajal 2006, p. 74ff.
  55. ^ Ruiz 2012, p. 77, 298, 306 and 357.
  56. ^ Moradiellos 2004, p. 174.
  57. ^ a b c Viñas 2008.
  58. ^ Thomas 2003, p. 923.
  59. ^ Moradiellos 2000, pp. 245; 263.
  60. ^ Dr. Juan Negrin of Loyalists Dies, The New York Times, 15 November 1956
  61. ^ Juan Negrin, The New York Times (Editorial), 15 November 1956
  62. ^ Bahamonde Magro & Cervera Gil 1999, pp. 33–34.


  • (in Spanish) Bahamonde Magro, Ángel; Cervera Gil, Javier (1999). Así terminó la Guerra de España. Madrid: Marcial Pons. ISBN 84-95379-00-7.
  • Beevor, Antony (2006). 'The battle for Spain. The Spanish civil war. London: Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-303765-X.
  • (in Spanish) "Biografía". Fundación Juan Negrín. Retrieved 1 May 2020.
  • Faber, Sebastiaan (2011). "Review of: Gabriel Jackson, 'Juan Negrín: Spanish Republican War Leader'" (PDF). Bulletin for Spanish and Portuguese Historical Studies. Association for Spanish and Portuguese Historical Studies. 35 (1): 183–185.
  • Fraser, Ronald (2011). "How the Republic was Lost". New Left Review. 67 (January/February).
  • Graham, Helen (2005). The Spanish Civil War. A very short introduction. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-280377-1.
  • Jackson, Gabriel (1967). The Spanish Republic and the Civil War, 1931–1939. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-00757-8.
  • Jackson, Gabriel (2010). Juan Negrín: physiologist, socialist and Spanish Republican war leader. Brighton: Sussex Academic Press. ISBN 978-1-84519-376-8.
  • (in Spanish) Moradiellos, Enrique (2000). "El enigma del doctor Juan Negrín: Perfil político de un gobernante socialista". Revista de Estudios Políticos. Madrid: Centro de Estudios Políticos y Constitucionales (109): 245–264. ISSN 0048-7694.
  • (in Spanish) Moradiellos, Enrique (2004). 1936: Los mitos de la Guerra Civil. Barcelona: Ediciones Península. ISBN 84-8307-624-1.
  • (in Spanish) Otero Carvajal, Luis Enrique (2006). La destrucción de la ciencia en España: depuración universitaria en el franquismo. Madrid: Editorial Complutense. ISBN 84-7491-808-1.
  • Payne, Stanley G. (2007). 40 preguntas fundamentales sobre la guerra civil, cap. 24: Juan Negrín: ¿patriota español u hombre de Moscú? (pg. 275-293). Madrid: La Esfera de los Libros. ISBN 84-9734-573-8.
  • Preston, Paul (2006). The Spanish Civil War. Reaction, revolution & revenge. London: Harper Perennial. ISBN 978-0-00-723207-9.
  • Preston, Paul (2012). The Spanish Holocaust: Inquisition and Extermination in Twentieth-Century Spain. W.W. Norton.
  • (in Spanish) Ruiz, Julius (2012). La justicia de Franco. Barcelona: RBA Libros. ISBN 978-84-9006-243-2.
  • Thomas, Hugh (2003). The Spanish Civil War. London: Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-14-101161-5.
  • (in Spanish) Viñas, Ángel (8 July 2008). "Negrín y 35 viejos militantes socialistas". El País.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Enrique Ramos Ramos
Minister of the Treasury
Succeeded by
Francisco Méndez Aspe
Preceded by
Francisco Largo Caballero
Prime Minister of Spain
Succeeded by
José Miaja
Preceded by
Indalecio Prieto
Minister of National Defence
Succeeded by
Segismundo Casado
Preceded by
Diego Martínez Barrio
President of the Spanish Republic in exile
Succeeded by
Diego Martínez Barrio
Party political offices
Preceded by
Enrique de Francisco
Deputy leader of the Socialist Group in the Congress of Deputies
Succeeded by
Enrique de Francisco