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Spain marks 42 years since return of democracy as retired officers dissent

Spain has celebrated the forty second anniversary of the structure that ushered the nation again to democracy following the top of the Franco dictatorship, as some former members of the armed forces made inflammatory declarations.

The prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, mentioned the 1978 structure was “the best success of our collective historical past” and hailed 42 years of “peace, co-existence and freedom”.

A bunch of 271 former army personnel, nonetheless, marked the anniversary by publishing a manifesto attacking the Socialist-led coalition authorities, complaining that Spain’s unity was beneath risk from Catalan separatists and bemoaning what they termed the “deterioration of democracy”.

The letter got here a number of days after it emerged that a gaggle of retired air drive officers who graduated in the course of the dictatorship had used a WhatsApp group to speak about firing on Catalan independence supporters, “capturing 26 million sons of bitches”, and describing Franco because the “irreplaceable one”.

A few of these within the chat group had been amongst the 73 former officers who wrote to King Felipe final month to precise their hatred of the coalition between the Spanish Socialist celebration and the far-left, anti-austerity Unidas Podemos celebration.

Spain’s defence minister, Margarita Robles, has despatched particulars of the WhatsApp group chat to prosecutors to see whether or not a criminal offense had been dedicated by “people who moreover might have posed as members of the army on lively service responsibility with out being so”.

The chat and the letter additionally prompted the chief of the defence workers to accuse these concerned of “damaging the picture of the armed forces” and complicated public opinion.

“The opinions of those individuals can’t be seen as consultant of the collective to which they as soon as belonged,” mentioned Gen Miguel Villarroya Vilalta. Their ideas, he added, ought to as a substitute be seen as these of personal residents.

“As army personnel, we take an oath promising to defend the structure, which guides all our actions,” he mentioned. “One of many penalties of that dedication is the political neutrality of our armed forces.”

The Francisco Franco Nationwide Basis, which was arrange lower than a 12 months after the dictator’s dying in 1975 to advertise research and consciousness of his “life, thought, legacy and works”, is headed by a former normal.

The muse, together with many on the far-right, bitterly opposed the Sánchez authorities’s choice to take away Franco’s physique from the Valley of the Fallen final 12 months.

The coalition introduced plans in September to ban organisations that glorify the dictator’s legacy as a part of its efforts to assist the nation come to phrases with its previous.

The deputy prime minister and Podemos chief, Pablo Iglesias, performed down the risk posed by the WhatsApp group and their allies, and mentioned their nostalgia for the dictatorship would show counterproductive.

“What these already retired gents of a sure age say doesn’t characterize a risk of any form,” he instructed Spanish TV on Thursday.

“However I feel the letter to the king places the monarchy in an absurdly uncomfortable scenario. If a number of Franco-supporting gents suppose they’re doing the top of state a favour by surrounding him with Francoism, I feel they don’t perceive that that they’ll in all probability simply make extra Spaniards really feel more and more like republicans.”

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