Assassination of Luis Carrero Blanco

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Memorial plate at the site of the assassination of Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco.

The assassination of Prime Minister Luis Carrero Blanco, also known by its code name Operación Ogro (English: Operation Ogre) had far-reaching consequences within the politics of Spain. Admiral Carrero Blanco was assassinated in Madrid by the Basque separatist group ETA on 20 December 1973. The assassination is considered to be the biggest attack against the Francoist State since the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939.

The death of Carrero Blanco had numerous political implications. By the end of 1973, caudillo Francisco Franco's physical health had declined significantly, and it epitomizes the final crisis of the Francoist State. After his death, the most conservative sector of the Francoist State, known as the búnker, wanted to influence Franco so that he would choose an ultraconservative as Prime Minister. Finally, he chose Carlos Arias Navarro, who originally announced a partial relaxation of the most rigid aspects of the Francois State, but would quickly retreat under pressure from the búnker. ETA, on the other hand, consolidated its place as a relevant armed group and would evolve to become one of the main opponents of Francoism.

The attack[edit]

An ETA commando unit using the code name Txikia (after the nom de guerre of ETA activist Eustakio Mendizabal killed by Guardia Civil in April 1973) rented a basement flat at Calle Claudio Coello 104, Madrid, on the route that Blanco would go to mass at San Francisco de Borja church.

Over five months, the unit dug a tunnel under the street – telling the landlord that they were student sculptors to hide their true purpose. The tunnel was packed with 80 kg of Goma-2 that had been stolen from a Government depot.[citation needed]

On 20 December, a three-man ETA commando unit disguised as electricians detonated the explosives by command wire as Blanco's Dodge Dart passed. The blast sent Blanco and his car 20 metres (66 ft) into the air and over a five-story building. The car crashed to the ground on the opposite side of a Jesuit college, landing on the second-floor balcony.[1] Blanco survived the blast but died shortly afterwards. His bodyguard and driver were killed outright. The "electricians" shouted to stunned passers-by that there had been a gas explosion, and then fled in the confusion. ETA claimed responsibility on 22 January 1974.

In a collective interview justifying the attack, the ETA bombers said:

The execution in itself had an order and some clear objectives. From the beginning of 1951 Carrero Blanco practically occupied the government headquarters in the regime. Carrero Blanco symbolized better than anyone else the figure of "pure Francoism" and without totally linking himself to any of the Francoist tendencies, he covertly attempted to push Opus Dei into power. A man without scruples conscientiously mounted his own State within the State: he created a network of informers within the Ministries, in the Army, in the Falange, and also in Opus Dei. His police managed to put themselves into all the Francoist apparatus. Thus he made himself the key element of the system and a fundamental piece of the oligarchy's political game. On the other hand, he came to be irreplaceable for his experience and capacity to manoeuvre and because nobody managed as he did to maintain the internal equilibrium of Francoism

— Julen Agirre, Operation Ogro: The Execution of Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco[2]

The killing was not condemned and was, in some cases, even welcomed by the Spanish opposition in exile. According to Laura Desfor Edles, professor of Sociology at California State University, Northridge, some analysts consider the killing of Carrero Blanco to be the only thing the ETA have ever done to "further the cause of Spanish democracy".[3] However, in regard to Carrero's death, the former ETA member now turned writer against Basque nationalism, Jon Juaristi, contends that ETA's goal with this killing was not democratization but a spiral of violence to fully destabilize Spain, heighten Franco's repression against Basque nationalism and put the average Basque citizen in the situation where they would have to accept the lesser evil in the form of ETA's reaction against Franco's unleashed repression.[4]

Reactions[edit]

The government[edit]

A government meeting about the "dangers of subversion threatening Spain" was scheduled to take place on 20 December 1973. Both Carrero Blanco and the United States Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, had expressed concern about a left-wing uprising during the meeting they held on 19 December. When government officials reached the Palace of Villamejor, they learned about Carrero Blanco's death. Deputy Prime Minister Torcuato Fernández Miranda demanded calm and announced that he was going to call Franco so that Franco could decide what to do next. After the call, Fernández Miranda proclaimed himself prime minister, in accordance with the dispositions laid out in the Organic Law of the State. His first decision as prime minister was to not declare a state of exception.[5]

Gabriel Pita de Veiga, Minister of the Navy, informed Fernández Miranda that Iniesta Cano, Director-General of the Civil Guard, had decided to "maximize surveillance" and ordered agents through a telegram not to hesitate to use deadly force if any clash occurred. However, Fernández Miranda was opposed and made Iniesta Cano reverse this order immediately through a telegram.[6][7]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "El asesinato de Carrero Blanco" (in Spanish). 11 October 2001. 
  2. ^ Julen Agirre, translated by Barbara Probst Solomon (1975). Operation Ogro: The Execution of Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco. Quadrangle/The New York Times Book Company. ISBN 0-8129-0552-0. La ejecución en sí tenía un alcance y unos objetivos clarísimos. A partir de 1951 Carrero ocupó prácticamente la jefatura del Gobierno en el Régimen. Carrero simbolizaba mejor que nadie la figura del «franquismo puro» y sin ligarse totalmente a ninguna de las tendencias franquistas, solapadamente trataba de empujar al Opus Dei al poder. Hombre sin escrúpulos montó concienzudamente su propio Estado dentro del Estado: creó una red de informadores dentro de los Ministerios, del Ejército, de la Falange y aún dentro del Opus Dei. Su policía logró meterse en todo el aparato franquista. Así fue convirtiéndose en el elemento clave del sistema y en una pieza fundamental del juego político de la oligarquía. Por otra parte llegó a ser insustituible por su experiencia y capacidad de maniobra y porque nadie lograba como él mantener el equilibrio interno del franquismo [...] 
  3. ^ Edles, Laura Desfor (1998). Symbol and Ritual in the New Spain: The Transition to Democracy after Franco. Cambridge University Press. p. 128. ISBN 978-0521628853. 
  4. ^ Sacra Némesis: Nuevas historias de nacionalistas vascos, pages 143–145, Jon Juaristi, Editorial Espasa Calpe, 1999, ISBN 84-239-7791-9
  5. ^ Prego 1995, p. 19.
  6. ^ Prego 1995, pp. 19-20.
  7. ^ Cebrián 1995, p. 8.

Coordinates: 40°26′03″N 3°41′08″W / 40.43427°N 3.68550°W / 40.43427; -3.68550 (Place of assassination L.C. Branco, 1973)